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Praise & criticism as DPS high school students return to class for first time since last March

Students express excitement, teachers aren't sold
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Posted at 6:26 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 20:37:08-05

DENVER -- Good luck trying to cheat off your friend's test this semester. Denver Public Schools have put up plexiglass and curtains to keep students safe. The kids seem to love it. Teachers aren't sold.

There’s both praise and criticism of the long-awaited return.

“Personally, I love it,” said an incoming freshman. “I haven’t been back since March, so I just get to see some friends now, talk to my teachers. It’s a new school, so it’s a big leap, but I think it’s great.”

“Easier than online,” said another freshman. “You understand more and you actually get to see a lot of other things. It’s very functional. It’s almost like a testing environment. Everyone’s quiet.”

While many students and parents are enthusiastic, some teachers remain critical.

“The district is not handling it appropriately, in my opinion,” said a teacher who asked not to be identified. “I don’t think the district is doing enough to make classrooms safe for students or educators. The district was full of inequities before the pandemic and the pandemic has only placed a magnifying glass on those inequities.”

DPS says it’s working hard to balance the concerns of teachers, students and parents while reopening schools to those who prefer in-person learning.

“You will see – in some cases – class dividers between the desks and between the teacher and students,” said Denver Public Schools spokeswoman Winna MacLaren. “We have done a lot of work to make sure we are opening our schools as safe as possible.”

MacLaren says about 60 percent of Denver high school students have opted to return for in-person learning.

“It feels like a classroom,” said one freshman who returned to school on Tuesday. “It’s actually very welcoming.”

“I’m mad at the district,” said a teacher. “I’m mad at parents who sent their kids to school when the conditions are not safe.”

Teachers say they’ll be teaching both in-person and online at the same time.

“The new challenge is waiting to hear from your virtual students, so that you’re not overlooking them,” said a teacher. “You’re not always taking answers from in-person students.”

The district says it is listening and working constantly to make things better.