AGUILAR, Colo. (CBS4) – Parents dropped off their students attending elementary and middle schools in the Aguilar School District Monday for their first day of school, returning to the campus for the first time since the pandemic with in-person instruction. High school students arrived in the afternoon as the district uses a hybrid model to educate all grades from one campus.

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“She’s excited, first day of kindergarten,” said Elizabeth Romero, a parent. “She actually understands what’s going on. She likes her mask.”

The three schools usually take advantage of having everyone on site by mixing grades together within the building. But to stop the spread of COVID-19, all the students who could have sat in one large hall previously will stay separate this year. The goal is to keep the other two schools open if there is a positive case in one school.

“I’m a little anxious, but I’m a little anxious with every first morning but this one is a probably especially different,” said Dr. Stacy Houser, district superintendent and elementary school principal. “Parents have been very supportive. They’re excited to get school going again.”

Entrances into school will use four separate doorways based on grade. Students will exit through a different set of doors at the end of school. Inside their our arrows on the floor encouraging one-way traffic. Seats and lockers have all been assigned so students do not get close in groups or form a line while at school.

For an outbreak involving multiple cases, the district plans to shut down for 14 days and switch to online immediately. The early start in the summer will allow for multiple closures for a week during the regular school year if needed.

(credit: CBS)

“I can’t imagine what Pueblo, Springs, Denver are going through,” Houser told CBS4. “But a smaller school with a smaller population makes it a lot easier.”

While some children enjoyed wearing a mask with a pattern or their favorite character, others did not. Parents say their students complained about how it fit and having trouble breathing with a mask on.

“She is not happy about it,” one parent told CBS4. “I think she’ll be fine. It’s a good situation, we’re excited for her to have this experience.”

Another way the district is keeping students separate is offering lunch in different parts of the campus at different times depending on the school’s grade level. In the past, all students from preschool to seniors could eat in the same room.

“It should be divided up enough so that’s not a lot of interaction between the two groups,” Houser added. “We’re confident with our plans and the parents are supportive.”

The middle school starts its day in-person and then switches to remote learning. The high school will flip that schedule starting at home and then coming to campus in the afternoon. On the first day, the district counted 85 students as of Monday morning.

(credit: CBS)

“We realize that people are going to be looking and seeing what we’re doing,” he said. “Seeing how it works and we’ll be looking at ourselves, and finding what we did wrong and what we did right.”

The district will operate with cohorts at all levels, elementary students will follow this format all day. Keeping the same students together each week will not only reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus, but also help with contact tracing if there is a positive case.

Parents are asked to check their student’s health including temperature each morning and keep them home if they are not well.

“Aguilar has done a great job at preparing and making the parents aware, we’ve been in the loop since day one with them,” Romero told CBS4.

Shawn Chitnis

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