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Coronavirus separates Colorado teachers from their Beijing classroom

Couple came to Colorado for vacation, now can't get back to China
Posted at 9:33 PM, Feb 24, 2020

PARKER, Colo. -- The novel coronavirus is now in 35 countries, but that isn't stopping a Colorado couple from teaching young children in China.

"Physically we're not in the classroom, but virtually it's about as close as you can get," said Jack Kriss.

Jack and his wife, Laura, teach at the Beijing International Bilingual Academy in China. They came home to Parker for a vacation during the Chinese New Year celebrations, but their plans to return were derailed by the coronavirus outbreak.

"Somewhere around the 12th United (Airlines) canceled all the flights," said Laura Kriss.

Jack teaches middle school computer science to 300 students. Laura teaches math and science. With the Kriss's unable to get back to Beijing, the school set up a virtual classroom – an interactive chat room where students can log on and speak with the teachers in real time.

"With this tool we are able to visualize our students and our students can visualize us, but it's no substitute for us being there," said Jack.

The couple conducts class out of a private room at the Douglas County Library in Parker — they're still getting used to the eight-hour time difference.

"Our workday starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes to 12:45 a.m.," said Laura.

"Today is Monday and I'm teaching but it's Tuesday morning there, so I'm constantly in my head trying to sort through that," added Jack.

The couple said none of their students have come down with the disease, but all have been virtually kept prisoners in their homes.

"Most of our student have been in their homes a minimum of three weeks and some, five weeks. Their parents are scared to let them go out," said Jack.

The semester is slated to end in June. Laura said information from the Chinese government has been scare.

"The government doesn't... they're doing day-by -day. Updates come about once a week," she said.

The Kriss' say when the coronavirus scare eventually subsides, they plan to head back to China. But now, with their lives — and the lives of their students in limbo — they're just happy to call Colorado home.

"Glad we were here at home where we had a place to stay, where we had family," said Laura.