Online classes begin at Cherry Creek School District amid COVID-19 school closure

Family time grows as schools go on hiatus

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The head of Cherry Creek School District didn't mince words when he outlined the district's transition to online class, as schools across the Denver metro area remained closed due to concerns about COVID-19.

“I am asking our teachers to shift what has been purposefully developed as a brick-and-mortar operation for the last 70 years into a remote learning environment in four days,” Superintendent Scott Siegfried wrote in an online letter to the community, asking for its “patience, grace and support.”

Cherry Creek Schools was set to begin online class for all students March 30, and it considered how to ensure that all students have access to the necessary technology and internet in their homes. The district was to send out a survey via text and email to identify families in need of technology, Siegfried's March 23 letter said.

Cherry Creek Schools also worked on plans to meet needs of students who receive special education, English language support, and gifted-and-talented support, Siegfried wrote.

Under the increasing likelihood that school will remain closed statewide through the end of the school year — and with many parents mandated to work from home — some south metro Denver families are looking at the upsides of being shut in.

Karen Corsi, a mother in the district, acknowledged that many are struggling, but “in our situation, I am thankful for the family time,” she said.

Out in east Centennial, Shoshana Howley expressed gratitude for having her kids safe at home, but she knows families are anxious about changing their lifestyles through the end of the semester.

“I think everyone's overwhelmed, and I hate to say scared, but scared …,” said Howley, 36. “Not knowing if we're going to be out … for the school year, how that's going to work for everybody.”

For some, time to reconnect

Corsi, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, has children in seventh, 10th and 11th grades in the district — and some have a leg up on the online transition.

“Two of my kids were already doing some online stuff because they're enrolled in the (Cherry Creek) Innovation Campus,” Corsi said. She expects to do a bit of handholding to make sure everyone's able to use the online class system, but she isn't stressed about it.

She knows some families have been more directly affected amid the pandemic — which has spurred business closures and upended thousands of livelihoods — but if there's a silver lining, it's the ability to spend time with kids, for the parents who can, she said.

“Believe it or not, we're watching movies together,” said Corsi, 51.

Howley, a stay-at-home mom, has kids at the K-8 Cherry Creek Academy charter school, and they started online class March 23, Howley said.

“We've always been able to do activities and science experiments, but we could do it together — but now to facilitate everyone's needs at the same time, that has been a change,” Howley said of her 6- and 8-year-olds.

Navigating young kids through the restrictions the pandemic has put on daily life — and explaining it without scaring them — has been a challenge, Howley said.

But “it's definitely put a lot of things in perspective, of course,” Howley said. “I'm feeling very lucky to be in the position I'm in to be home with them.”

A mental health break

Simar Chadha, a Cherry Creek High School senior, had confidence in his teachers to be able to pull off the transition to online learning. He enjoys the free time spent at home — going without socializing with friends amid the “social distancing” guidelines by public officials — and he's adapting to the new reality.

“It seems the sanity of a high-schooler with no high school to go to now depends on their adaptability to entertain themselves indoors,” said Chadha, who is playing games online with friends, spending time with family and using apps to have food delivered.

Despite the changes the pandemic has wrought, students are getting a small mental health break from the stresses of school, Chadha said.

“Again, though, the student has to be willing to unwind. Some may be stressed over this entire situation and simply freak out their entire break,” Chadha said. “The best thing we can all do is fulfill our social responsibility to isolate, and work on ourselves and our mental health while we wait in these crazy times.”

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