As my eldest son Hudson and his lifelong friends embark on their senior year of high school this year, I cannot help but reflect on their journey. How have the remarkable amount of changes around what all of our students and educators went through in a COVID-19 world impacted them?
Fast forward to today, going into fall 2024: the traditional schedule is back for all students, the virus protocols are not at the forefront and parents are returning to the office. Are we not just back to school, but also back to normal?
“While there are definitely some changes in enrollment, levels are pretty much back to what we would have expected going into the school year in 2019,” said Wheat Ridge High School guidance counselor Amanda Olenberger. “Have the numbers dropped? Yes, but the change is nowhere near what it was going into the fall semester the past two years.
“Grades and proficiencies also seem to be back to where we would expect,” she added. “Kids are back to looking into colleges like they have in the past….”
Prospect Valley Elementary kindergarten teacher Sherry Becker feels that things are back to normal.
“Yes, this year I feel that the kids are coming in with preschool experience, they are socialized as I would expect and are ready for kindergarten,” she said.
When I asked my son Brodie, who is going into his sophomore year at Wheat Ridge High, if he felt that it was back to normal, he answered, “How would we know? It’s not like I am doing sixth grade again.”
His answer made me realize that if one doesn’t know anything different, then this is “normal.” The kids are truly doing what kids do. It also made me realize that he, like the rest of us, is tired of talking about it. They are just going with the flow and adapting.
The sentiment from my son Hudson and some of his friends who were in high school in 2020 is that there is a feeling of having missed out on things. Their class never really had the freshman experience.
The parents that I have talked to agree that there also seems to be a bigger sense of urgency in these kids to uphold traditions. They witnessed a whole class of students that didn’t get to watch sporting events, participate in clubs, or go to prom or graduation. It seems like that has made those traditions even more precious to the classes that have followed.
Olenberger also had a take on the positives that came about.
“Education systems really had not changed much in terms of how we teach in several decades,” she explained. “Remote learning really forced the education system to turn things upside down and look at new ways to do things. Many of the changes have really been good for us as educators and for the students, even if it was painful in the process.”
So, the resounding sentiment is yes, we are back to normal. Normal just looks different now and that is OK.