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K-8 school at National Jewish Health adapts with remote learning and remote nurse visits

The 70 children at Morgridge Academy all have chronic illnesses that could make them at higher risk for severe symptoms if infected with COVID-19.

DENVER — A loss of laughter is a reminder that times are different at Morgridge Academy, the K-8 school that sits on the campus of National Jewish Health.

“Normally right now we’d probably have at least one group of kids out at recess playing around," said the principal, Jennifer McCullough, checking her watch. 

The 70 children who attend the school all have chronic illnesses, like cystic fibrosis and asthma, that could make them at higher risk for severe symptoms if infected with COVID-19. 

“We have many students that are ill enough that if we’re not making sure they’re getting taken care of, and that they’re taken care of every day, that their lives could literally be in danger," said McCullough. 

So like other schools, they have remote classes through Zoom video chat. 

Tuesday morning's class was math with Ms. Katie Tilton, and the third graders have adapted well as they write their answers on a whiteboard and hold them up to their web cameras. 

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The class was learning how to tell time, and the differences between a quarter past and half past. 

"Easy as pie," said one student. 

While the kids are taught that every problem in math has an answer, time doesn't always add up for the adults. 

“The last week has been a very interesting three months," laughed McCullough. "Like it feels like time has just frozen and I just want this all to be done so we can get back to the kids." 

The staff is trying to connect as much as they can through remote learning and drop-offs of supplies and food to families. 

In addition to video chats with lessons, every day a nurse checks in with each kid to ask if they are okay, and to make sure they take their medications. 

Miss McCullough dropped off school supplies and snacks to one family in Aurora, and a little girl ran out with her arms wide open. 

"You can't hug me girl," said the principal regretfully. 

Credit: Mike Grady

Before she leaves, she gives air hugs instead, and hopes for a time when she can give the real thing again. 

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