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El Paso County Colorado District 49

COVID-19 effects in other districts

Amidst all the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic introduced, one of the most difficult hurdles was deciding how to reopen schools. While some schools in the area opted for an online approach, others opened their doors to students.Peyton 23 Jt School DistrictThe Peyton school district was among the schools that decided to bring students back into the building this year. After the first few weeks of the school year, Peyton school district is doing well, said superintendent Tim Kistler.ìIt is a routine that everybody has picked up on,î Kistler said. ìEveryone has accepted that, for a while, this is where we are and what we need to do.îThe high school students attend school in cohorts. The students alternate between going to the school and completing days of online school so that only half of the students are in the building at a time.As a surprise silver lining, having half of the students at a time appears to greatly decrease the amount of disciplinary problems, Kistler said.ìHigh school disciplinary issues have been much lower,î Kistler said. ìWe donít exactly know why, but we assume that with less students there are less problems. When (students) are in a cohort the whole time, it is not as if they have extra influences that may egg them on to act out.îThe school is taking measures to ensure student and faculty safety. All faculty and students have their temperatures read before they enter the building. Everyone over the age of 11 is required to wear a mask.Kistler said that several students and faculty underwent COVID-19 testing, but all tests came back negative. He said it is important that they remain diligent and continue the safety measures they already have in place.The faculty and students continue to make adjustments to ensure safety and success. Kistler said it is all a learning process.ìOur hope is that, as we move forward, we continue to get better at what we are trying to do,î Kistler said. ìI am so happy with how our families have been so flexible and understanding. I could not have asked for a better response from our parents, kids and teachers.îKarlee Kimsem, a second-year kindergarten teacher at Peyton Elementary School, said the safety precautions are difficult for the kids when it comes to socializing.ìThey are really struggling with not getting to be with their friends,î Kimsem said. ìBut I do think the teachers are trying to put our kidsí social needs first by finding other ways for them to connect. We are trying to make the school year as fun as we can for them.îKimsem mentioned special spirit days each month where the kids are encouraged to dress up according to different themes. The staff is also sharing pictures of their classrooms so kids in other classrooms can see what is happening elsewhere.ìI think the school put everybodyís safety first and foremost,î Kimsem said. ìThey were very diligent in explaining the rules to everybody. I think they did an excellent job.îCalhan School DistrictCalhan School District decided to enhance their health and safety procedures in order to open its doors to students this year. Calhan schools are following the state guidelines to ensure the safety of their students.ìIt was a very considered decision to offer in-person instruction to open in August,î said David Slothower, Calhan superintendent. ìWhen I saw kids together, it reaffirmed my belief in how important it is for students to be together. I think their desire to stay in person is the basis of their compliance.îThe school is also taking extra measures to enhance cleanliness and safety by purchasing electrostatic fog machines to sanitize the rooms and adding an extra bus route to keep buses under 30% capacity. The response from students and faculty has been optimistic, Slothower said.ìI think the response of students and faculty has been nothing short of amazing,î Slothower said. ìI could not be happier with the level of compliance. I think students understand that these measures are a way to keep school open and others safe.îThere have been several students who displayed COVID-19 symptoms and were sent home, but each of their coronavirus tests came back negative.ìWhen we have a student who is exhibiting symptoms that we would consider concerning, we ask parents to make sure they are medically cleared by a doctor before they can return,î Slothower said. ìObviously, that can be really cumbersome. But the community has really accomplished that in an exceptional way.îOverall, the faculty at Calhan schools are doing their best to make every school day as normal as possible for their students.ìI think we spent a lot of energy making sure that this feels as much like normal school as possible,î Slothower said. ìWe were in a unique position to offer students a return to normality, which we felt was important.î

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