INSIDE LOOK: Widefield School District 3’s first day of school in a pandemic

Digital Now

COLORADO SPRINGS — Sunrise Elementary School staggered the first day of school for different grade levels, with Tuesday saved for third grade. 

“This is way smaller than ever. So, I don’t think I’ve ever had a class size this small,” said Nadine Hill, a third grade teacher at Sunrise Elementary School. 

Nadine Hill’s classroom once held at least 24 students.

Now, in accordance with El Paso County Public Health coronavirus guidelines, she can only have 17. 

“I don’t have a paper passer, paper collector, things like that. Just jobs where no one is touching any other students’ materials,” Hill said. 

Desks are spread apart, every student has a lanyard to attach their face mask, and hand sanitizing stations are now all around the classroom. 

Teachers say they’re excited to be back, but know challenges still lie ahead. 

“Getting things together for making sure that we’re building connections with the kids and that they’re building connections within the classroom. I think that’s the hardest part. I like to group my students together, so they can talk and interact with one another, and share ideas and so, just really making sure that I’m building in those activities, so we can have a community together,” Hill said. 

New changes include eating breakfast and lunch in the classroom. 

As for recess:

“We have different zones set up and so, each day will be in a different zone, but they have to stay with their classroom. So, they’ll still have a certain part they can go run out in and play,” Hill said. 

According to D3, masks can be taken off while at their desks for students in kindergarten through second grade. 

Otherwise, students will have them on unless they’re at recess socially distant from others or eating. 

“We really have to be careful, keeping our hands to ourselves, keep our distance. We do so many activities around the classroom, outside. So, I think that will be the biggest challenge as well as they can’t interact with other classrooms. So, they might have friends in other classes that they cannot interact with. We can only interact with every kid in our classroom,” Hill said. 

The district says right now, no parents, volunteers, or visitors are allowed inside the school. 

All students will enter and exit from the outside classroom door. 

The school will also have staggered dismissal from bus riders, walkers, and parent pickups. 

Students who opted to go to school virtually enrolled in D3’s online education program, My Way, which has been expanded to accommodate more families this year. 

According to D3, My Way has its own teachers and curriculum and is designed to allow students to transition back into a traditional classroom when they are ready. 

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