McAuliffe Planning to Return to In-Person Learning


Hannah Kutnick, Writer

The principal of McAuliffe International School, Mr. Dennis, announced that students will have the option to return to school for in-person learning during a back-to-school night video presentation on September 17, 2020. This will be the first time that large numbers of students will be allowed to enter the building since schools shut down in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The first day back will be October 21, with new safety measures put in place to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. 

Students will only be allowed in the building with masks on. Different grade levels will have different arrival and dismissal times in order to help maintain social distancing. Students will stay in groups of about thirty-five all day, every day. They will have one live class a day and one asynchronous class each day. A fall break for students has been added to allow teachers to learn about this new system. Families can decide whether or not to go in-person on a day to day basis. 

Whether or not the plan put in place will be effective is up for debate. One parent recognized that “There is the social emotional benefit of getting to be with peers.” Another parent suggests that “the benefits don’t seem to outweigh the risks.” An eighth grader at McAuliffe said “I think it is ok, but I want to get a chance to socialize with more of my classmates. I really like that we can choose to do online or in-person on a daily basis. Summer, another student, said “I think that in-person learning is good because your teacher can see how you learn and help you. Also, your teacher can give you immediate help if you don’t understand something.”

While Denver Public Schools released their plan for reopening schools about a month and a half into the school year, other districts and schools in the area started their year with in-person learning. Cherry Creek School District, one of the larger public school districts in the Denver metro area, had students in their buildings for in-person learning since August. Elementary school students are going full time, while middle and high school students have been on a hybrid model, where they go in-person for two days and do asynchronous learning for the other three. However, a relatively recent outbreak of COVID-19 caused more than 1,700 high school students attending Cherry Creek High School to do class remotely. The district said that the positive cases “have been tied directly to students attending off-campus parties.” 

Denver Jewish Day School, a private school, has students in Kindergarten through twelfth grade doing in-person learning five days a week because of their small size.  They wear masks while inside the building and sit socially distanced. Their school days resemble days from before the pandemic as students are able to move between classes. However, this model would not work for McAuliffe as the grade sizes are much, much bigger. 

There is still much uncertainty about what in-person learning at McAuliffe will look like the second part of this year. It is unclear whether or not the social-emotional benefits of in-person learning will outweigh the possible health risks, or what the best plan for in-person learning will be this year.