By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Families of kindergartners and some first grade students who chose to return to in-person learning saw their teachers on Tuesday, no internet required. Denver Public Schools has spent months preparing to welcome students back safely.

The district’s younger students heard the bell ring for the first time since spring, and for some of its youngest, the first time ever. Leigh Benrahrou missed out on one of the most cherished memories a parent has with their child – walking them in to kindergarten.

(credit: Leigh Benrahrou)

“I didn’t get to see Ramzi’s classroom or where he’ll be every day, so it was a little bit sad for sure. I cried a few tears on the way home,” said Benrahrou. “You’re sending them off into the world, not being able to get that final squeeze and that final hug.”

Ramzi and his classmates were reunited with their parents at 2:45 p.m., just like most 5-year-olds, in any other year. Children this young aren’t as aware of how unlike any other year this has been.

“I’m concerned, like all parents, but I do trust in the school and the safety measures they have in place. The teachers and the schools have been great in communicating with us,” said Benrahrou.

Her son, Ramzi, told Benrahrou about the transparent desk dividers on each desk. They allow students to see each other while protecting them from the virus.

(credit: CBS)

Ramzi says students also ate lunch at their desks and wore masks, from the classroom to the playground, but he was able to take if off when he needed a break.

Annemarie Minor, a first grade teacher, showed CBS4’s Tori Mason those dividers Ramzi described via Zoom.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of practice and them knowing they’re ok. That distance doesn’t mean you’re being mean to the other person or you don’t care about them. We have that distance because we’re showing we care and because we’re thinking about others and not just ourselves,” explained Minor.

Minor says children this age are usually learning how to do basic things, like wash their hands, anyway. She says educators of young students are just more challenged to reinforce the skills they’d already be teaching in the classroom.

“Children are incredibly resilient, especially when given the chance and opportunity and the correct reinforcement. They’re so strong and they can adapt to so many things,” said Minor.

Ramzi didn’t have to adapt all, as he’s never been to elementary school. He can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

For kindergartners, Tuesday was just their first day of school, and there’s no comparison to steal their joy.

Tori Mason

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