Colorado teachers draft new guidelines for re-opening schools

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DENVER (KDVR) — Teachers from the Colorado Education Association said they’ve come up with their own guidelines for when schools should re-opening after receiving little guidance from state officials.

The group of teachers backing the new COVID-19 dial for public schools said they have been frustrated by the lack of guidance and assistance school districts have received as they try to navigate in-person and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The state has put superintendents in the extremely difficult position of having to make almost arbitrary decisions on when to shift learning environments and this has placed great strain on educators,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, President of the Colorado Education Association.

The Colorado Education Association represents 39,000 teachers across Colorado. It said a recent survey found only 23 percent of educators feel safe at school. The study also found 70 percent of teachers agree their district should stay with remote learning until they can follow clear and safe metrics to allow for in-person learning to resume.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Polis urged school districts to re-open elementary schools. He said data indicates COVID-19 transmission in elementary schools is low.

Teachers at a press conference Wednesday said Governor Polis is putting pressure on districts to re-open but leaving them on their own to determine how to do so safely.

“The governor is saying the decision is left up to local control at school districts to decide. This circle of finger pointing exacerbates the problem as rates continue to climb. We need a simple answer with clear direction for easy predictability for parents, students and teachers,” said John Robinson, Teacher and President of Poudre Education Association.

Baca-Oehlert said teachers have started a grassroots effort by collaborating with teachers from districts around the state to come up with a solution. The Colorado Education Association has come up with the following guidelines they want school districts to use to guide their decisions for re-opening schools.

  • Level Green – Protect Our Neighbors – A vaccine is widely available and there have been no new cases of COVID-19 within 14 days in the county(ies) in which the school district is located. All schools open and all students attend in-person learning.
  • Level Blue – Safer at Home Cautious – 1% percent positivity in the county(ies) in which the school district is located. All schools can open and remote learning available for students who opt in.
  • Level Yellow – Safer at Concern – 3% percent positivity in the county(ies) in which the school district is located. All schools can open and remote learning available for students who opt in.
  • Level Orange – Safer at Home – High Risk – 5% percent positivity in the county(ies) in which the school district is located. All schools closed and all students learn remotely.
  • Level Red – Stay at Home – 6+% percent positivity in the county(ies) in which the school district is located. All schools closed and all students learn remotely.

The CEA said it’s important for all school boards to approve and adopt this COVID-19 dial so all school districts across the state are consistent in their decision making.

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