Back to school in Cherry Creek district: ‘Going with the flow’ as masks mark another year

Younger students return to school with face coverings again

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A cheerful crowd gathered at Rolling Hills Elementary School on the first day of kindergarten in Cherry Creek School District, with parents sending their kids off wearing masks in keeping with the school district’s recently announced requirement.

Bryan Dehaven, 48, dropped off 5-year-old daughter, Ramona, on Aug. 18 at Rolling Hills, noting his daughter was looking forward to seeing her friends again. Last school year, she was at a preschool full-time, Dehaven said.

“This is her first time wearing a mask all day, so we’ll see how that goes,” said Dehaven, who was feeling mixed emotions about recent changes in mask guidelines.

After initially saying on Aug. 4. that it would “strongly encourage” — but not require — masks in school, the Cherry Creek School District announced on Aug. 13 that it would require masks for all students in pre-K through sixth grade and the staff who work with them.

For Dehaven’s daughter, communicating amid masked faces — reading facial cues and enunciating words — can be difficult at an age when language skills are still developing, Dehaven said.

“It’s hard to explain to her why. She’s just doing it (wearing masks) because everyone else is,” said Dehaven, who also noted Ramona adjusted well to wearing masks.

“She really went with the flow with it. We got her a dozen different ones so she could mix and match with her outfits — (to make it) more a fashion accessory than a pandemic accessory,” Dehaven said.

A short drive away, Grandview High School students arrived for the first day of the academic year with all grade levels in school in Cherry Creek School District.

Curren Shmity and Robbea Awad, both sophomores, walked together to Grandview, looking forward to getting good grades and meeting new people, they said. Shmity said he “missed out on the actual school environment last year.”

COVID-19 protocols at school seem “pretty chill now” compared to earlier in the pandemic, Awad said. He noted there’s no mask requirement for his age group and that students can sit next to each other.

“It’s easier to work with people,” Awad added.

Conversations among his friends about COVID-19 have waned — “only the parents talk about it,” Awad said.

Isabella Dorf, a sophomore, said she’s not too worried about the coronavirus but said there are things Grandview could do better.

“Teachers used to say avoid big groups — that’s all Grandview is now. Big groups,” Dorf said.

Addison Sears, a sophomore who has been vaccinated for COVID-19, said about vaccination: “There’s no real reason behind not wanting to protect yourself and protect other people.”

Sears also came into the new school year with a focus apart from the pandemic: “Trying to find myself and a group of other people.

“I feel like once you get a hold of yourself, you get a hold of everything else,” she said.

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