DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo (KDVR) — Monday was the first day of the school year for 64,000 students in Douglas County.

Not only is it the first day for families, but it also marks the first school year for the new Douglas County School District Superintendent Erin Kane.

FOX31 sat down with Kane to talk about the most important topics for the school year, ranging from the current curriculum and bus routes, to how the district plans to handle COVID-19.

“I don’t know any direction to go but forward. We’re working on going forward with our kids. All of our board members are there for kids. All of our staff are here for kids. And they are incredibly optimistic as we go into this school year,” Kane said. “The last couple years have been hard for everyone in education. So I’ve not seen this kind of optimism from teachers and principals in a long time. We’re super excited to get our kids back.”

Amongst this enthusiasm for teaching each and every student, Kane said that she does not plan to make any changes to the current school curriculum. The Board of Education asked the district to look over the current policies and how they are being implemented, then receive feedback. Feedback is something that’s important to Kane. She said she wants to hear from every parent about their concerns.

“What I’d like to do is have everyone express their fears. Whether it’s ‘I’m afraid the district’s going to ban books,’ ‘I’m afraid that you’ll change how we teach racism in history,’ or ‘I’m afraid that you’re going to tell my child that he’s an oppressor just because of the way he was born,’ or ‘I’m afraid you’re going to get rid of valedictorian or gifted and talented,'” Kane said. “I think we need to write down all of those fears. My guess is 95% of us have no intention of doing any of those things.”

One of the other primary concerns entering this school year is the bus driver shortage. It’s a problem being experienced by many other counties throughout the nation as well. Last year, Douglas County removed several bus routes due to the shortage. This year, it cut two more.

“It’s really hard to cancel any route because […] our parents rely on that, and our students rely on that. And as soon as we can restore routes we certainly will. But unfortunately, the labor shortage that we or any other district have, we just don’t have a lot of control over,” Kane said.

Kane said part of the decision to cancel routes stems not only from not being able to get buses to the bus stops but also from wanting to have a backup plan if too many bus drivers are sick or can’t show up on a given day.

We’re told the district personally contacted every parent impacted by these cancellations.

Also impactful this year is the looming presence of COVID-19. Fortunately, the CDC may ease guidelines in the coming days. The district is following federal health orders.

Here is the current policy:

  • In classrooms, masks are recommended but not required.
  • On buses, since it’s considered public transportation, masks are required.
  • If you or your child is sick, keep them at home. The district says it will not penalize a child for following the CDC-recommended quarantine.
  • If students or teachers are exposed to COVID-19, the Douglas County Health Department will be notified.

For more information about the district’s policies, you can view them on the Douglas County School District website.

“We’ll continue to follow our local health department in terms of following whatever we need to follow to make sure that we’re monitoring COVID-19,” said Kane. “What we haven’t seen is severity, and we haven’t seen severity go into our hospitals, etc. But, of course, we’re keeping an eye on it and we’ll continue to work with our health department.”

Overall, the district says it is looking forward to a great year with new leadership.