Teaching & Learning During Covid-19

Jahir Rojas-Reyes, Journalist

Re-opening schools has been a heavily disputed topic during the Covid-19 pandemic. From its emergence  it has wreaked havoc not only as a public health crisis but as an economic one too. As of the first week of October, there are 35 million cases worldwide,  and over 200,000 deaths in the US alone. There is no sign of slowing down and a vaccine is far from being released to the public.

 Regardless of the risks,  many schools decided to open again this fall In fear of losing enrollment funds. Many schools nationwide have seen a decrease in fall enrollment. In districts where 70 to 80% of school funding comes from enrollment count numbers, this is a big problem.

Despite the many red flags, many schools continue to reopen around the country. The CDC just recently released guidelines schools around the country should follow in order to ensure the safety of their students and teachers this fall.  Among many,  they recommend  social distancing, wearing face masks at all times, and frequent handwashing. 

DPS has also released health standards and protocols schools. Similarly, they recommend frequent hand washing, face masks, and social distancing when possible. In a classroom setting, desks have been separated as far apart as possible, this will vary among classrooms. Surfaces that are frequently touched must be thoroughly cleaned. Interestingly,  playground cleaning was made optional “Due to low transmission rates via physical objects.” However, washing hands after touching any playground equipment is highly recommended. Food distribution has also seen a change. DPS will be providing school lunches but they will be distributed and eaten in designated classrooms. Field trips have been cancelled for the first quarter of the school year, no exceptions. As of now, the rate of transmission is still increasing in Denver County. DPS says they “will continue to closely monitor data and will reassess in a couple of weeks.” 

Infection rates among children have been relatively low recently which is a good sign for the schools who are on the verge of opening soon. “In the 0-9 age group, Denver Health hospital is seeing less than 0.5 cases per 1000 children,” says Dr Foldy, a public health specialist in Denver Health. 

Although there is a decreased risk in children from Covid-19 It is important to point out that 1 out 4 teachers has an underlying condition that puts them at a higher risk of hospitalization, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Among the many concerned, teachers are questioning their willingness to go back to a packed classroom. I decided to interview a few of my teachers about their opinions on reopening schools and took the opportunity to ask them what they think about online learning. 

Ms. Breden, an AP US history teacher here in South high school said, “ it seems we as a metro area are not headed in a good direction, so it’s much safer for all schools to be online right now. It’s up to each of us to show that we care about our fellow Denverites by staying apart from other people as much as we can.” Like many, she has been constantly checking the DPS Covid dashboard for new information about the pandemic. She then goes on to share some of the challenges she has gone through due to the change to online learning this year.  “I’ve had to almost start from scratch with my teaching materials, and planning and grading take much longer in the online environment, but the students in my classes are engaged and giving their best effort, so that makes it worth it!”

Ms. Otero, a math teacher in South high school also shared her thoughts on reopening and  expressed her inclination towards in person learning. She stated, “I’d love to come back to school if we can do it in a safe way, such as social distance, having  just a few students per group and all of us wearing masks. Although staying at home is the safest decision, I think the teaching quality cannot be the same. Teachers cannot get to know the students in order to offer support, explain the topics clearly, and provide different activities to make the lessons much more fun.” 

As of now,  it is unclear when we’ll be able to go back to a classroom  but thanks to the great team here at South,  we can be sure that we’ll be welcomed by a safe learning environment when we do.