All Lower School students return to campus

On the first day of Week 5, Colorado Academy marked a significant milestone—all Lower School students had the option to return to their classrooms to learn in person together. (Students could still choose to learn remotely. Approximately 20 students continued in fully remote fashion.)

Pre-Kindergarten Director Lizzie Rockmore started the day reading a book to CA’s youngest students, titled School is a Little Bit Different This Year. Talking to Pre-Kindergartners, who were carefully distanced from each other, she summed up what all CA Lower School teachers felt. “I am really glad to see all of you!” For their part, the Pre-K students seemed equally glad to all be back. “It’s boring being at home,” offered one four-year-old. “It’s fun to play with friends,” added another.

It was the third “first day of school” for Lower Schoolers. On their first day, August 18, all of them learned remotely on Zoom. One week later, they had their next first days, with half the students (Mustangs) coming to school on one day, and half the students (Rockies) on the next day.

This phased approach to starting the school year enabled CA to reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission, allowed teachers to gain more experience teaching with new safety protocols and new technology, and ensured students would have plenty of time to learn and practice critical health protocols.

Today, CA fulfilled its goal of supporting in-person learning as much as possible, and Lower School students were reunited with all their friends for the first time since March.

Accustomed to the morning routine after weeks of practice in their Mustangs and Rockies cohorts, students arrived on time, wearing masks, carrying everything they needed for the day, and entered their classroom through the exterior door.

The bell had not even finished ringing, and Lindsey Owens’ Kindergartners already were settled at their desks, diligently matching the beginning sounds of words to images.

Lower School Principal Angie Crabtree addressed the entire Lower School, emphasizing the importance of continuing safety measures on the bus, on the sidewalks, in classrooms, and during snack and play time. “Your teachers are working hard to keep you safe,” she told students. “Please say thank you to them.”

First Graders in Megan Ollett’s classroom reviewed and discussed what Mrs. Crabtree had told them. There was no joking around—they clearly understood this is a serious matter. But Ms. Ollett lightened the mood during morning meeting by finding different socially distant ways to celebrate each comment and by replacing handshakes with “air high fives.”

First Grade teacher Diane Giarusso sported the “beehive” style of protective headgear while working with her students.

Jay Leeuwenburg’s Third Grade class took a mask break and relaxed. “It’s good being back together,” they agreed. What is the best part of school? No argument there, and perhaps no change since pre-COVID: “Recess!”

In Angela Hottinger’s class, students now know that all their art supplies are contained in one large kit which only they use, so there is no sharing of art materials.

In music class, clean music tools are clearly separated from ones that students have used.

Most Specials (like Jorge Muñoz’s group of Pre-Kindergartners in Art) still meet with just half the students at a time (Rockies and Mustangs cohorts), according to an elaborate and complicated schedule designed to minimize contact for both students and teachers.

When class finished, P.E. Instructor Marcia Richards immediately sanitized the balls that students had been throwing.

Before they returned to class, Richards made sure every student’s hands were sanitized.

Jessi McCoy’s Second Grade class enjoyed their mask break and snack outside. “We are thrilled to have the students back on campus,” McCoy said, eyes smiling above her mask. As long as weather permits, students will spend as much time as possible in fresh air.

Upper School students who arrived before school starts for them (often because they have driven younger siblings with an earlier start time) naturally social distance on the steps of Schotters Music Center or in chairs scattered around campus.

Reaching the goal of 100 percent in-person learning for Lower School took a village. At CA, teachers, students, and parents all have consistently practiced hand washing, daily health monitoring, and social distancing. Perhaps most important, they have recognized that individual choices affect the entire community.

View more photos from the first day all students returned!

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