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Middle and high school students return to full, In-Person learning

Students return to Laredo Middle School on April 5. For Dave Strohfus, the school day on April 5 held all of the excitement, ceremony and significance of the first day of school.

He wasn’t alone. According to Strohfus, the principal of Challenge School, reporting to school on that Monday in early spring was an emotional process for middle and high school teachers, students and administrators alike. After months of alternating between Remote learning and staggered schedules, April 5 was the first day that secondary schools across the Cherry Creek School District returned to a regular, full schedule, with all students attending five days a week. Elementary school students are already engaged in full, In-Person learning that follows that schedule.

“It was really exciting, and it was hard to tell who was more excited – the teachers or the students,” Strohfus said. “For many of our students, they were able to see classmates that they literally hadn’t seen all year. We all had these ‘Back to School’ emotions that you’d normally see at the beginning of August.”

Following the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County and positive data from CCSD’s tracking system, middle and high schools across the district welcomed students back to a full-time schedule this week. As a result, what in other years would be just another Monday in spring became a cause for celebration, as well as a good amount of caution, safety and careful attention to pandemic guidelines.

“This has been a year about adapting to change, giving families choice and delivering on our promise of excellence for all students, even in the face of great challenges,” CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried wrote in his weekly update. “As we approach the final weeks of the 2020-21 school year, let it be our collective goal to help students find joy, a sense of belonging and a love of learning whether they are In-Person or Online. Let’s finish this year strong.”

At Laredo Middle School, students reporting to their first classes found balloons, colorful signs and teachers and staff offering enthusiastic welcomes at the doors. At Eaglecrest High School, returning students were welcomed by a DJ spinning celebratory tunes as the school’s mascot watched on. Similar scenes of jubilation played out across the district, even as students, teachers and administrators alike were sure to wear masks, keep their distance and be attentive to other best safety practices.

Strohfus said the shift to full In-Person learning offered a sign of hope after a challenging year for the entire community. For students, the move offers the chance to return to some kind of normalcy, tempered by new safety regulations. For teachers and staff members, it signified the chance to return to a more immediate style of teaching and learning.

“Our goal is to finish the school year and to make it feel as normal as it possibly can. We want our students to be academically prepared for their next steps; we want to make them feel welcome and safe,” Strohfus said. Along with the rest of the staff, he sported a special T-shirt for a special Monday that read simply, ‘The Pack Is Back,’ and featured the school’s wolf mascot. “Our teachers have risen to every challenge over the past year, and we’re all glad to be back. We want to let all of our students know how much they’ve been missed.”

- Posted 4/6/21 at 10 AM