Students in Aurora headed back to school buildings Thursday as Colorado districts begin another year amid uncertainty about how COVID will continue to impact learning. Under Colorado’s system of local control, districts are opening with a range of mask rules, COVID protocols, and learning options, but educators, students, and parents are hoping for a less disrupted school year.
The Aurora district, the fifth largest in Colorado with about 38,000 students, is offering three learning options this year. Students can be in-person five days a week, online full-time, or in a flex model. In the flex model, students tune in to in-person classrooms from home and have opportunities through the first semester to switch to in-person learning if families decide they’re ready.
The vast majority of Aurora students are starting the school year in person. It’s a big change from 2020. At Virginia Court Elementary, students returned on Thursday to a remodeled and expanded campus that was completed during the summer using bond money voters approved in 2016. The school currently serves a little more than 300 students.
The district is strongly recommending masks for students who are unvaccinated, but is not requiring it. The district is mandating staff get vaccinated when the FDA issues full approval for a vaccine. For now, unvaccinated staff must wear masks.
Among the districts starting school this week are Douglas County, Mesa County District 51, Brighton-based 27J Schools, Littleton Public Schools, and the Adams 14 district. Next week, students in Jeffco Public Schools, Cherry Creek, Westminster Public Schools, and Adams 12 Five Star Schools return to the classroom.
Denver, the state’s largest school district, starts classes on Aug. 23.
- A third grade class walks through the hallway during the first day of school at Virginia Court Elementary School. Students came back to a campus that was remodeled and expanded over the summer. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A teacher conducts a lesson during a STEM class. Many of the school’s additions are intended to enhance their STEM and art programs. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A group of third grade students line up to leave their classroom. Virginia Court Elementary School serves just over 300 students. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A colorful mask sits next to a student as they complete an introductory worksheet. Aurora Public Schools is strongly recommending masks for unvaccinated students, but it is not required. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A teacher leads an exercise with her students, who completed worksheets about themselves. This year, students in Aurora Public Schools can attend school in-person five days a week, fully online, or in a flex model. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A teacher leads her students in a classroom discussion during a STEM class. The vast majority of Aurora students are starting the year in-person. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A student completes an introductory worksheet about himself for the first day of school. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- The school’s entrance has signs that outline social distancing and vaccination policies. Due to Colorado’s system of local control, districts are opening with a range of mask rules, COVID protocols, and learning options. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- Students work on a mathematics exercise in the classroom. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- (Left) A student’s mask lays on a desk, adorned with colorful smiley faces. (Right) A student adjusts their mask while listening in the classroom. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- Students listen to their teacher as she lectures during a STEM class. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat
- A woman walks out of Virginia Court Elementary School on August 12, 2021. Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat