Cherry Creek mom worried about teens' mental health as classes move online due to COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 11:11 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 01:19:21-04

DENVER — Several Cherry Creek High School seniors tested positive for COVID-19, placing 14 staff members and 146 students in quarantine, according to the letter sent to parents from the school district Tuesday.

The Cherry Creek School District's letter sent to parents reads that the positive cases have been tied directly to students attending off-campus parties in the last two weekends. The students in quarantine are from cohort A and the remaining cohort, totaling 1,585 students, are now being moved to online learning through Sept. 23 and will not be allowed to participate in sports.

Denise Whittington has two daughters that attend Cherry Creek High School. One is a freshman and the other is a junior. They are part of cohort B and have not been impacted, but Whittington says she's worried about the teens' mental health.

"It's very concerning," Whittington said.

Her girls attend in-person and online classes throughout the week. While it may appear like a balance, Whittington fears they're spending too much time isolated in their room and noticed they are growing quieter.

"I think it's just a detriment to their mental health and I think that it gives them a lot of anxiety," Whittington said.

As a former teacher and specialist in child development, Whittington says the human connection is vital for teenagers. As a stay-at-home mother, she keeps a close eye on her daughters, but she worries other parents don't have that luxury and adds that anxiety can lead to more severe issues.

"Depression, suicide, drug use alcohol use," Whittington said.

Whittington keeps her daughters on a regular schedule, even during online learning days, and holds small gatherings so they can hang out with their friends.

"I want them to stay mentally healthy," she said.

She says while school staff have been helpful, she feels helpless as a mother and worries about the long-term effects.

"I think it's traumatizing and I'm fearful we won't be able to recover," Whittington said.

She admits she doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution, but wants schools to reopen and hopes students will return to full-time in-person classes.

"I just implore the leaders in our communities and our schools to think about kids and their mental health and how much they need to be together and not be isolated and alone during this time," Whittington said.

Abbe Smith, a spokesperson for Cherry Creek Schools, tells Denver7 every elementary school has one mental health professional, middle schools have two and there are at least three mental health workers at every high school.

Smith adds that staff focused on emotional lessons during the first week of school to help students transition to their new learning environment. The school district is also rolling out a Signs of Suicide program.

According to Smith, students placed in quarantine will not need to take a coronavirus test that shows they are negative before returning.