PRHS and COVID-19: The Past, Present, and Future


Photo by Luxe Palmer

Students socialize after the school bell rings.

By Luxe Palmer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

There has been much debate across the country over the decision to return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some argue that fully-online school is the best way to avoid another outbreak, while others believe that fully-in-person school would be the best option for students and their academic futures. As for District 38, we have chosen to go forward with a hybrid schedule, mixing both the cohort strategy, online schooling, and in-person days.

The Bear Truth surveyed students and families before school began in August, asking what model, out of online, in-person, or hybrid, that they would prefer for themselves and their children. Approximately three months after school began, we returned to our responders, posing the same question.

Before school started, Jaden Cotton (11) replied, “I would choose online due to the freedom you have with it. If there is in-person school, not only is there an adherent risk involved, but due to how contagious the virus is, it is most likely the school will close often. However, during these closures, you need to stay close to the school for when it reopens. Online, however… as long as I have a WiFi connection, I can have school [anywhere]. Due to the possibility, if not certainty, of closures of school in-person, online is safer, easier, more reliable, and more free than doing in-person.”

After school had begun, he replied, “[My opinion] both has and hasn’t [changed]. I now enjoy in-school due to the organization that online school doesn’t have, but I still like online school due to the freedom you have.”

Before school, Aliyah Eaton (10) replied, “[I’d prefer online school since] there is no purpose of going to school and then coming back home and skip a day. You would be more exposed if you were to go to school and you would put your family in danger if you caught it.”

Eaton’s opinion has not changed since, stating, “[My opinion hasn’t changed] because many people in different districts are getting COVID, and I think that learning at home is easier, [since] you have more time to your self and [you] get to hang out whenever you want with your friends.”

Before school, Kendra Schlacter (10) replied, “I like the in-school learning environment more because I feel like I’m able to do better and focus more on my schoolwork. Also, I like learning with and around my friends– it helps me keep a positive attitude.”

However, once school began, Schlacter decided that she enjoys the current hybrid model more than she originally anticipated. “I actually kind of like hybrid right now, because it gives me more flexibility to get my work done [as well as] hang out with friends during the week more often.”

Before school, Paige Alsup (12) replied, “Personally, I learn better in-person. I enjoy when not only I can ask questions, but other people can, too. They ask things I maybe didn’t think of, and it helps me grasp the subject better. Plus, I’m a band kid and it’s SUPER difficult to do band online.”

Alsup still agrees with her previous statement, stating, “Online has actually become much harder and I definitely prefer in-person!”

Before school, parent Chris C. replied, “We chose the hybrid model because our son will still get the in-person instruction and time to hang with his friends, but it also limits his time in a larger group. With the hybrid model, it spreads the number of kids out over the week. He is old enough to maintain a schedule at home to get his work and ‘online’ lessons completed. But the in-person [aspect] gives him some accountability with his teachers, too.” His opinion has not changed since school has begun.

As for the COVID-19 response plans for next semester, nothing is set in stone. “In regards to our current hybrid schedule, we have yet to formally introduce any adjustment to the current hybrid schedule that we’re on. What I think is important in that is a recognition that if we were to make a change, there are a few things that still need to happen. One of those is giving more opportunity to incorporate additional feedback from students and families… We recently had a conversation and an opportunity for feedback from staff that have given us at least an initial read on what our staff are feeling about the potential of the return [to five full days of school],” District 38 Superintendent Dr. KC Somers stated. “There is no guarantee that the schedule can actually change as we go into second semester. I think there is a lot of variables, obviously, that work into that potential decision.”

Looking at the current safety requirements set in place, such as masks and social distancing, those would not change until the state mandate has been lifted by Governor Polis. What might differentiate, though, is the number of in-person days for students.

“Those dimensions of our plans are informed and created by our local county health department, the Colorado Departments of Health and Education… the executive orders at the state level, as well as centers for disease control, etc. When we’re talking about the schedule, that’s a local decision that we adopted as a district to start the school year out. Specifically, I think what we would be looking at is the potential of moving to the hybrid schedule, which is that 50% in-person, 50% distance learning, to… a full-time in-person schedule, which would be 100% [in-person]. Whether that’s a four-day-a-week schedule or a five-day-a-week schedule is still up for conversation, but we haven’t made the decision to implement that schedule change at this point.”

In response to the upcoming expected cold and flu season, Dr Somers said, “I think it’s going to create an additional level of complexity because one of the difficult aspects of how we’re responding to COVID specifically is the presence of a variety of different symptoms, and some of those symptoms are going to potentially resemble what the common cold or flu would look like. I think we would continue to stress the importance of… self-monitoring those symptoms and to stay home when ill… The best way that we can manage through it is to continue to commit to those basics but there’s obviously a level of concern that I think we’re all feeling in terms of the potential of an uptick in COVID cases while also seeing some of the typical seasonal types of illness that we’re accustomed to.”

As of right now, the future of school during the coronavirus pandemic is unknown. With Europe in its second spike of cases and America predicted to soon follow, school districts are in a tough place when considering both their students’ wellbeing, health, and educational advancement.