Denver teacher believes in-person learning is safe, sustainable

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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools will begin the year 100% remote, but if Priscilla Rahn had her way, teachers would be back in the classroom on day one. 

“With a mask, and the social distancing, and washing the hands, and all of that stuff, I think we can safely get together again,” Rahn said. 

Rahn is a middle school band and orchestra teacher, and listed as an executive officer on the Denver Classroom Teachers Association website but no longer in that position.  

She believes low case rates among children show teachers and students could be kept safe with proper protocols.

“Wear your mask, let’s take your temperature, let’s minimize how close we are together,” she said. “If you’re having symptoms, stay home, or we’re going to put you in the nurses office until a parent can come get you.”

Her opinion differs from the majority of her peers, with only 8% of educators polled in a recent survey saying they’d prefer to begin the year 100% in-person. 

Rahn is quick to point out teachers who feel unsafe should absolutely be given the option to work remotely. 

“That’s why I think it’s appropriate for the district to give them a waiver,” she said. “If their doctor says ‘hey I think it’s best under your conditions to wait.”

Rahn says a hybrid model, with smaller class sizes, and a mixture of in-person and remote learning is a viable option, and says she’s worried about the education students will be getting in a 100% remote environment.

“We can’t do our job with fidelity as educators, remotely,” she said. “We saw it in the spring, so we need to come up with more options for the parents who do want their children, and for those students who do want to go back to school.”

In-person guidelines released by the state Thursday suggest students who test positive should be sent home to isolate, with their classmates and teachers being sent home as well. 

Rahn says in-person school would not be sustainable under those guidelines, with a shortage of substitute teachers predicted this fall. 

“That opens up a can of worms where you could send a bunch of educators home, and then the children don’t have a teacher, and there’s not a sub, so I think it should be done on a case by case basis,” she said.

Rahn suggests schools should have a pre-determined number of COVID cases that would force the school to close. If it reaches that number, in-person learning should not resume until the next semester. 

“I am concerned about a back and forth, so I do think it’s better to do one or the other so that teachers can plan and organize their lesson,” she said.

Whether that risk is worth giving it a shot? Rahn said, “Absolutely it’s worth trying.”

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