A cohort of Lamar Middle School teachers and students were sent home for quarantine after a student tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release Tuesday by Prowers County Public Health and Environment. Schools in Lamar School District opened for their first day of classes on Aug. 10.
Lamar School District issued a statement Monday notifying parents that a student had tested positive. The statement said classes for all sixth graders will be online only for the next two weeks (from Monday) in accordance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Education.
Schools in the La Junta area have either just opened or are priming up to do so in the coming days, but some local students are wary about various aspects of attending in-person classes.
High school junior Kiarrah Santistevan, who started school this week in Swink, said that she is apprehensive about returning to in-person learning.
Santistevan thinks her family is in a precarious position in terms of the risk of catching or spreading the novel coronavirus. Her mother works at the hospital and her father is an EMT, she said, and she is worried that if she, or even one of her classmates, tests positive, it could lead to one or both of her parents being temporarily out of work and in quarantine themselves. She also said her risk of catching the disease is higher given their fields of work.
"Just me being around both of them, my risk is pretty high," said Santistevan. "The only thing that scares me personally about going back to school is, no matter if I get sick or not, I don't want to carry it to someone who can't get sick. Just because I know that as soon as my mom finds out that anyone near me has contracted Covid, she cannot work anymore."
The high school junior said she would rather wait and see how other schools adapt to the Covid situation before going back to the classroom.
"I honestly just wish there were more options for online learning, just for Swink," said Santistevan. She added she wasn't familiar enough with other school districts' plans to speak for them. "We've known this is a possibility since last Spring. I think we could have just come together and instead of hoping that it would just get better, realize that it might not. So what can we do if it doesn't?"
Santistevan has been a member of Communities That Care since she was 11 years old. She said she served as the youth chairman for the opioid awareness trailers Communities That Care featured last year.
"We were really hitting it hard touching on the opioid epidemic," said Santistevan. "I think we were just hitting our peak when we had to stop because of Covid.
Santistevan said through Communities That Care she has had the opportunity to express her thoughts on Covid and school reopenings (not to mention other subjects before the pandemic), and she feels that too often, youth are encouraged to be seen, but not heard.
"Yes, we are children, but we do have things to say, and who knows better what we're going through than us? I think as soon as one person was able to think that way, they were able to have a domino effect."
Although the pandemic presents cause for health concern, not all students are too worried about the coronavirus itself. One college freshman told the newspaper that he’s more concerned with staying up on his studies in virtual classes.
Alex Rivera is a freshman at Otero Junior College. His game plan is to acquire his Associate of Arts degree in two years and then to transfer to another school to continue his studies. This semester, Rivera is taking courses in the humanities and philosophy, with some other more general topics mixed into his schedule as well.
Most of his classes are online, Rivera said, and the others are hybrids that will utilize both in-person and online classes. Rivera has asthma, but that's not what has him worried about school this fall. He said what he's most concerned with is staying focused on classwork when it comes to online learning.
"I'm pursuing online although a couple of my classes are hybrids, I'm actually there on hand," said Rivera. "Although, it's not really my preferred method at all when it comes to schooling. I have a hard time motivating myself in general and my attention span is horrible in the classroom, so I can imagine doing it at home. However, considering the chaos that's going on outside, it's more of a safer option to do it at home."
Rivera added that he is prefers hands-on learning as opposed to online discussions and research, although he said going fully online might be better or ideal for other students. And as far as options for online versus in-person courses, Rivera appeared satisfied. He said he mostly had a choice between the physical and the virtual classrooms.
"If they're not online, then they're hybrid, so that's how it's going to go at OJC," said Rivera.
Rivera said he plans to follow all health and safety protocols and that he doesn't mind wearing a mask to class.
"I'm usually just a cautious person in general," Rivera said. "I'll be practicing the safety protocols and all that."
Regarding recent controversy locally and abroad regarding some people refusing to comply with mask mandates, Rivera said, "This is coming from an asthmatic person as well. Public safety and all that. It's not that hard to breathe (in a mask). Also, I'd probably check my lungs if I were you, if it really is (hard to breathe in a mask)."
Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at email@example.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.