Gerald Knowles sat in his car, like several parents around him, waiting to pick up his child from Cresthill Middle School on the last day of school before the Douglas County School District shut down for two weeks.
Amid coronavirus concerns, the district announced it will go into its regularly scheduled spring break on March 16 but remain closed for at least an additional week, through March 27. Schools will conduct education remotely in that time while facilities are deep-cleaned. As that date grows closer, district leadership will decide whether schools should reopen on March 30.
Parents said they believe the district made the right call in closing down, but they had mixed reactions about the effect it will have on students and families.
“I don't think it's a big deal,” Knowles said. “As long as they put the assignments out.”
Felipe Sierra is less certain. His 12-year-old daughter, a seventh-grader at Cresthill, moved from California to Douglas County in the fifth grade, behind in her academics.
She attended Lone Tree Elementary before moving to Cresthill in Highlands Ranch. Both schools were instrumental in helping her improve, Sierra said, and with some hard work of her own, she is now caught up and earning As and Bs. Learning remotely might be hard for her or other students who rely on working closely with teachers, he said.
“It's definitely going to have some impact on her. I know that, because she's used to some help,” he said.
The closure will also change their work life. Sierra's wife will need to stay home from work meetings she'd typically attend with him as they grow their maintenance and general contracting business.
Angela Lancaster said teaching children remotely could have good and bad effects. Children might not learn as well without the structure of being in school, and there are more distractions at home, she said. Still, Lancaster believes the responsibility will be a good lesson for her 13-year-old son, an eighth-grader at Cresthill.
“I think it's a good alternative, given what's going on,” she said. “I don't have any bad feeling about it, because I just feel they're (DCSD) being smart.”
Lancaster hopes the community will stay calm as the virus spreads. Sierra said they're teaching their daughter proper hygiene. She attends church weekly with her grandmother.
“Everyone has someone who could really be hurt by this,” Lancaster said.
Lam Doan, whose 13-year-old son attends the seventh grade at Cresthill, agreed.
He believes closing was the smart thing for the community's health and safety, and he's not stressed about the school year potentially taking longer. He does worry the community cancellations will worry residents and hopes people won't panic.
“Yes for safety. I 100% agree,” he said. “I know this virus is an unknown virus, so people are scared.”
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