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Elementary students excitedly raise their hands together at their desks. Some students are wearing protective masks, while others are not.
Students participate in a classroom math exercise during the first day of school at Virginia Court Elementary School in Aurora on Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Eli Imadali for Chalkbeat

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Photos: Aurora students go back to school in person

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.

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