Colorado schools consider how cohorts would work when students return

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DENVER (KDVR) — As school districts across the state make plans for fall, many will consider putting students and teachers into cohorts, or small groups, in order to limit the amount of interaction at school.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Education recommend cohorts in their school guidance, but say schools and districts can choose what works for them. The goal of cohorts is to reduce the number of exposed students or staff, if a person at school tests positive for COVID-19.

“As a result of that, it will result in fewer students or staff members needing to quarantine if there was a confirmed case in that school,” Rhonda Haniford said, Associate Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education.

CDPHE offered this example from earlier in the year to show the benefit. Child care facility number one in Grand County used a strict cohorting system. When one staff member tested positive, six children and two staff members were exposed. So eight other people quarantined, but the rest of the facility continued to operate.

Child care facility number two in Weld County did not use cohorting, and allowed children and staff from multiple classes to co-mingle throughout the day. When one staff member tested positive, 40 children and seven other staff members were exposed. Those 47 people were quarantined, and one child later tested positive.

Under the guidance for the Safer at Home phase, the vision for elementary schools is small groups of kids with up to four teachers rotating in and out. Cohorts for older kids, could be tricky.

Some high schools are looking at a block system, including a four by four block. Instead of accessing all eight classes in a semester, the students would have four classes that semester, Haniford said.

Ashley Richter, with Tri-County Health Department says everything is on the table, and schools will have to choose what works for them based on their needs.

“This is going to require a lot of creativity, a lot of thinking outside the box, and a lot of doing the theme of this pandemic, doing what we’ve never done before, and how can we make it sustainable,” Richter said. 

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