EL PASO COUNTY — After more than a year since the pandemic began, high school and middle school students in District 49 returned to in-person learning at full capacity. Monday morning was an exciting return for students, teachers and the principal at Falcon Middle School in Peyton.
"It's been exciting. It's like a first day of school all over again," said Brian Smith, the middle school's executive principal.
Smith said the past year has been a tough test as an educator, but teachers excitedly greeted hundreds of students as they returned to the classroom. Since January 2021, they've been on a hybrid schedule with about 50% of students in the classroom each day. The students would then rotate days they were allowed at school.
"I think a lot of us get into education because we enjoy working with our students, so to not have our students here everyday, it was such a challenge for all of us," said Smith. "Their energy back in the building has really energized my staff. They've been excited to see their students and get to interact with them too. It's just been a lot of positive energy today."
There are about 1,000 students enrolled at Falcon Middle School. About 85% of them returned to in-person learning while about 15% chose to continue with remote learning. Smith says before spring break began, they surveyed families and gave them the option to continue with remote learning or return to the classroom. Families who have chosen to continue with remote learning were asked to commit to that decision for the remainder of the school year.
D49 elementary school students went back to full capacity in January.
"Some students haven't met their other classmates yet. So this is a day where everyone is getting to see each other and interact together," said Smith. "To get to have a little bit or normalcy back today, was really exciting."