PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- This week, high school students in Pueblo are back inside the classrooms for the first time since COVID-19 prematurely ended the 2019-2020 school year in March.
Students at Pueblo East, Central, Centennial, and South High Schools returned to a hybrid format, where half the school alternates days coming to class.
"[The classroom] is so much better than Zoom calls," said Pueblo South Senior William Highfill. "So much better than my internet [at home] that goes out every ten minutes or so."
When the Pueblo City School District 60 Board announced a return to the classrooms in July, students at all three levels were expected to return on August 31. However, high school students were forced to wait for nearly another two months.
"There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to high school scheduling," said Marci Imes, D60's Executive Director of Secondary Education, when asked what took so long. "Part of ensuring the safety of our students and the safety of our staff was taking the time we needed to make sure we were prepared."
Earlier this week, city and county leaders addressed a concerning rise in the number of COVID-19 cases within Pueblo County.
Officials said that if the spike in cases remains high through Oct. 30 -- a ten-day period -- they will be forced to return to restrictive health orders reminiscent of the "Stay at Home" and "Safer at Home" orders issued by Gov. Jared Polis earlier in the pandemic.
"That means businesses would be at 25% capacity," said Pueblo County Health Department Director Randy Evetts. "Our variances would go away. So bars would likely have to close. The capacity for indoor and outdoor events would decrease. All of these things have a drastic impact on our local economy and our local businesses."
D60's Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Morey says she met with the city and county leaders on Wednesday to discuss the schools, and whether they can remain open.
When asked if now is the right time to reopen the high schools, Morey said she stands by the decision.
"It is very important that we spend as much time with students in person as possible," Morey said. "The behaviors and actions of the community do impact our own ability to provide in-person instruction. So we are monitoring that as closely as our community is."