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It's February and these freshmen are stepping into high school classrooms for the first time

School started virtually for many Colorado high school students. Months later, some freshmen are just now taking their first steps into a high school classroom.

DENVER — It’s normal to have jitters before the first day of school.

Will Perkins is nervous, but eager for his freshman year.

“Definitely nervous,” the 14-year-old from Denver said. “Gotta see where all my classes are. Not sure how to get to every one of them.”

What’s not normal is the delay for students like Perkins, who will step foot for the first time into his Thomas Jefferson High School classroom on Thursday. 

It’s February – the second month of his second semester of freshman year.

“Yeah, it’s interesting to say the least,” he said.

The global pandemic upended traditional school plans for many Colorado students. Half through this school year, students can now count three semesters affected, in some way, by COVID19.

For high school freshman, it’s the only version of high school they know so far.

“I’m pretty nervous, honestly,” said Sloan Steimel, a fellow Thomas Jefferson freshman and classmate of Perkin. “I haven’t been in school in, like 10 months, for educational purposes. Little nervous, excited. It’s exciting as well. I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.”

Thomas Jefferson High is part of Denver Public Schools, where high schools are currently using a hybrid schedule to return students to in-person learning. Steimel and Perkins are part of a cohort at their school, and will attend in-person learning a few days a week, and stay remote the other days.

Both teens say virtual learning has hard -- not just academically, but hard to stay motivated. They miss social interaction with other kids at school. Both have missed milestones they don’t even realize are a traditional part of freshman year of high school.

But they found one bit of normalcy within the strange school year: the basketball team.

“I thought CHSSA  wasn’t even going to approve this season, and I was so excited when I heard they were letting us play,” Steimel said. “I’m so down to wear a mask if I can play basketball.“

The team is allowed to practice and play with COVID-19 safety protocols in place which include masks and social distancing. Steimel and Perkins said those changes are worth the effort, and they’re just thrilled to play.

“It’s weird, it's hard to catch your breath,” Perkins said of the mask requirement. “At least we get to go play basketball.”

Credit: KUSA
Will Perkins and Sloan Steimel practice basketball drills outside of Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver

RELATED: Local athletes from across Colorado sign to play college sports

High school is full of milestone moments. These are moments now stolen from students by a virus lasting much longer than they expected.

Perkins and Steimel said they won't take certain parts of school for granted now.

“Just going in-person, seeing your friends every day at school. Going from class to class, we don’t get that experience in online school,” Perkins said.

“When I look back on it, I’m like, 'oh my gosh, I used to hate to school,'” Steimel added. “Now, I’m online every day, I’m like, 'oh my gosh, I miss that [in person] so much.'”

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