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After a year of uncertainty inside classrooms, schools prepare to bring students back for in-person learning

School leaders say they've learned a lot about how to control the spread of the virus inside classrooms.

FORT LUPTON, Colo. — Many school districts around the state are going back to in-person learning this semester while others are keeping students at home. 

Back in August of last year, Fort Lupton High School was one of the first schools in the state to have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Just three days after students returned to class for in-person learning, the school was forced to retreat back to virtual learning.

"This has absolutely been the most challenging year that I’ve faced in education," said Alan Kaylor, superintendent of Weld Re-8 Schools. "I think people have hope that we are going to see 2021 look different than 2020."

As he prepares for students to head back to class full time, Kaylor reflects on the lessons learned from that day in August he had to send students home.  

"I have to be very transparent and say that it was absolutely a depressing day for me personally," said Kaylor. 

For much of the past year students have transitioned back and forth between sitting in class and sitting at home in front of a computer. Kaylor says it hasn’t worked.

"We have data that we took in our first round of internal assessments and then in our second round of internal assessments, and quite honestly we are not doing a great job of educating our kids," said Kaylor. "It’s difficult because our students don’t have the relation value of being in front of a teacher on a day to day basis. I worry about things like social emotional. Are we identifying the needs of our students as they arise? Probably not as well as we should."

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After the initial cases forced schools to shut down, students in Fort Lupton returned back to the classroom. In November, the district had to go fully remote.

With data supporting the idea that students aren’t learning as well at home, the hope is a new year will bring more stability to the classroom.

"Quite honestly it became an issue for us to staff our classrooms because of adults who were in secondary contact with somebody with COVID or were positive COVID," said Kaylor. "I’m hopeful that we don’t find ourselves back in that position again."

Elementary school students in Fort Lupton will return to class full time on Monday, while high school students will continue with a hybrid learning schedule. Kaylor says a survey the district conducted of the community shows around 70% of families want to send their students back to the classroom.

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