Like more than 1,000 of her fellow students did in the first two months of school in Cherry Creek School District, Nicole Hill landed in quarantine.
But even when she reached the end of her two weeks, she couldn't go back yet. The day she was supposed to return to school, all of cohort A at Cherry Creek High — nearly half the school's student population — moved to online classes after several Creek seniors tested positive for COVID-19. Officials tied the positive cases directly to students attending off-campus parties, according to the district.
As a result of the outbreak, nearly 150 students were told to quarantine through Sept. 23, and the remaining 1,585 students in that cohort were not quarantined but moved to online class through that date as a precaution.
Hill, a senior, had been trying to limit her contacts to her close friends to prevent exposure to the coronavirus.
“It was a little upsetting to hear other people weren't handling the situation as well,” Hill said, adding, “You know, we're in high school and we want to have fun, but I think (we need to focus on) being as responsible as you can.”
She's had a stressful time balancing the bustle of senior year with keeping up in classes online, taking virtual tours of colleges and still managing to keep in touch with friends in Creek's other cohort whom she doesn't get to see at school.
Here are Hill's reflections on how the year has gone so far in her own words.
A teacher of mine who tested positive reached out and let us know she was doing OK.
I was definitely surprised — you know, you hear about other people being quarantined, but you never really think it would happen to you. First thing I did was I let my friends know, who I had seen before … I was shocked and sad obviously because I love going to school. School time is really valuable, especially now when it's so limited.
The other students in my classes, I reached out to them and let them know I was in quarantine. And they were so helpful, and they told me, 'Let us know if you have any questions.' … A couple of my teachers would video record their lessons so I wouldn't fall behind.
I think online learning (in general) is always going to be really hard because you have that lack of normalcy … It felt like there was a disconnect because it was just me and a few others online. I think I did my best, and my teachers did as well, but it's difficult.
It's more challenging to learn the material because we're not in school as much. For example, with my math class, I usually love math, but this year it's been a lot harder for me than normal, and I think (that stems from) it was rushed because in the spring we were all online, and I was preparing for an AP test.
You realize how important those days in school are in helping to solidify my understanding.
The environment is different, the classes are smaller, not all of my friends are in the same cohort as me … it's a little disappointing because I love to talk to people.
Mostly I just text them and use Snapchat, Instagram, those platforms to keep in touch with them. Making the most of technology to help us.
I think it must be really hard for the freshmen to adjust right now because they're trying to adjust to a new school and having to make new friends and figure out their place with COVID restrictions.
I play tennis (girls tennis season is in the spring). I'm also the president of Spanish Honors Society. It's been very hard to figure out how we're going to do events and community service requirements while staying safe … Most of our events this year will be virtual.
I'm also involved in speech and debate, and I think all of our tournaments for the rest of the semester will be virtual. We'll have to figure out how to debate and get things across effectively on a screen.
I'm really lucky at Creek — I think they're handling it really well. I have great teachers, and it's really hard for the teachers because they're dealing with this too, but they've been really great about communicating with students.
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