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"It's just devastating:" Parents, students protest D11's decision to move to remote learning, postpone activities

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Posted at 10:15 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 21:32:33-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — More than a dozen parents and students protested outside of Colorado Springs District 11's Administration Building Friday against the decision to move seven schools to remote learning and postpone end of the year activities and events.

The decision comes after a spike in COVID-19 cases among staff and students, but parents and students expressing frustration over the unexpected postponements of major milestones such as prom.

"I already bought everything. Paid for tickets, started making plans, and reservations at restaurants," said Raina Bennett, Senior at Coronado High School.

"I was enraged to tell you the truth. I made plans to go on a senior trip to Nashville, Tennesse, but since they rescheduled prom to be on the same day I leave basically, I won't be able to attend," said Tyler Wright, Senior at Coronado High School.

With prom canceled last year, and now up in the air this year, students are upset over possibly missing it yet again.

"Things were taken away from us very abruptly, it was very confusing and abrupt. Last year, the class of 2020's senior year ended very abruptly and now so are we. It's kinda unfair," said Bennett.

"I think the biggest disappointment has been constantly being promised these things and then it be taken away from us at the last second," said Elizabeth Gumper, Senior at Cornado High School.

To help slow the spread of the virus and ensure graduation continues, the district moved seven schools to remote learning, including Coronado, Doherty, and Palmer. In response to the decision, parents organized the protest to get the district to reconsider its actions.

"This isn't about masks, this is not about not taking COVID seriously. It's really about giving our kids options and not shutting everything down without thinking of alternatives," said Shannon Rogers, District 11 parent. "For these seniors, they got the last half of their junior year canceled and now they haven't had a normal senior year. No homecoming, no activities, sports have been pretty limited so it's just devastating to these kids."

According to the district's COVID-19 dashboard, there have been a total of 942 cases. Currently, there are 78 active cases within the district with the high schools and elementary experiencing the highest rate.

"We look at our schools, the positive rates, and the quarantine rates. If there is about a 20 percent quarantine rate of our students then we need to address the situation and move them remote for safety reasons. We take the safety of our staff, students, families, and our community as our highest priority," said Devra Ashby, Chief Communications Officer for District 11.

"What we're seeing is a transmission from the community level into our schools. Families having positive cases in the home or relatives their visiting over the break at some point. However, what we're seeing now is a higher transmission within our schools. We are seeing a greater number of outbreaks than we saw in the fall when we saw large community numbers rising. The schools that are currently closed right now, we do have outbreaks that are active," said Corey Notestine, Executive Director of Student Wellness for District 11.

While the district understands these activities and events are important, their first priority is keeping everyone safe and ensuring graduation continues as planned.

"We know these seniors have worked their entire school career to get to this point where they graduate. Last year, all our senior class wanted was an in-person graduate. This year, we know seniors again want to have that in-person graduation so are empathetic and understand that is unfortunate some of these events have to be postponed. Our strongest desire is to finish out the school year in person with all of our students as safe as possible, and to have those seniors participate in their graduations," said Ashby.

Students wanting normal graduations, but also a somewhat normal end to their most memorable years.

"Part of me is like yeah it's just prom, but you only get one of those," said Wright.

"When they look back at their high school experience, they aren't going to remember exciting and happy times as much as they are going to remember sitting in their bedroom logging on, internet connectivity issues, missing assignments, and stress," said Gumper.

Palmer High School students will return to in-person learning on May 4 while Doherty and Coronado expect to return to the classroom May 10.

Cumulative cases:

  • Colorado Springs School District 11: 942
  • Academy District 20: 762
  • Lewis-Palmer School District 38: 528
  • Cheyenne Mountain School District 12: 176
  • Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8: 317

Here is a look at what each high schools are doing.

Coronado High School:

  • Remote learning started: Friday, April 30
  • Planned return: Monday, May 10
  • Sports and activities: No practices, games rescheduled pending availability
  • School play: canceled
  • Prom: re-scheduled to May 26

Doherty High School:

  • Remote learning started: Thursday, April 29
  • Planned return: Monday, May 10
  • Sports and activities: No practices, games rescheduled pending availability
  • School play: canceled
  • Prom: was scheduled for May 1, postponed

Palmer High School:

  • Remote learning started: Tuesday, April 27
  • Planned return: Tuesday, May 4
  • Buses will not run and the building will not be open
  • Prom: was scheduled for April 30, will be rescheduled for after graduation.

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