DENVER (KDVR) — Middle and high school (“secondary”) students in the Denver Public Schools system will not return to in-person learning on Oct. 21 as planned.
The district said the earliest secondary students will resume in-person learning is the week of Nov. 9.
Kurt Dennis, principal of McAuliffe International School, sent a letter to the families of his students Tuesday night after Denver Public Schools made the announcement about the delay.
This week, the middle school was bringing students in the building for orientation on what the school day would like under new guidelines to keep them safe. After day one of orientation, the school had to close.
“We got through 8th grade, and by the end of the day we were shut down again,” said Dennis.
Teachers and staff at McAuliffe are among the many administrators in Denver Public Schools that spent months working on plans to bring kids back.
“There’s a lot of frustration amongst the staff,” said Dennis. “We put a lot of hard work and effort into preparing the school to reopen to students and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation from families and kids about returning to campus.”
Dennis said he doubts students will be able to return at all this semester, based on previous experience. Since the end of summer, plans have changed at least four times.
“We created a good plan for bringing our students back to school safely, it took a lot of work and preparation and a lot of logistical things needed to be resolved, but we felt like we were ready,” Dennis said.
Changes the middle school planned to implement include outdoor lunch time, strict mask enforcement and keeping all desks at least 6 feet apart. They also spread out arrival and dismissal times to avoid crowds coming in and out of the school.
“Some kids are really thriving with online learning, while others are really struggling,” Dennis said. “We have kids that don’t mind being at home and don’t mind not being around their peers, but others are really struggling with the lack of social interaction.”
In a Zoom conference with Denver news outlets Wednesday afternoon, school officials explained how some students are allowed in-person learning. The district allows schools to set up remote learning centers and some schools are choosing to bring back 10% of their student population. It’s up to teachers and staff to determine who is struggling the most.
“In a perfect world it’s something that’s available to all kids because in a city with 90,000 students in this district, obviously more than 10% of them need the support that schools can provide in person,” Dennis said.
While remote learning has improved significantly since March, Dennis is most worried about the mental health of students.
“They don’t have access to their psychologists and social workers like they would regularly,” said Dennis. “Our kids deserve better than this.”