DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released a report Wednesday examining the risks of in-person learning and how schools can decrease the spread of COVID-19.
In the report, the CDPHE recommends school districts curtail or stop after-school activities in an effort to preserve in-person learning.
“Even if conducted with optimal risk reduction measures in place, extracurricular activities present another venue in which COVID-19 transmission may occur. Further, schools may have less control of risk reduction measures in these activities. Large outbreaks associated with sports teams have resulted in the suspension of in-person learning for entire school districts in Colorado,” the report stated. “While extracurricular activities have value for participants, they should not be prioritized at the expense of in-person learning, the health of school community members, and transmission of COVID-19 in the wider Colorado community.”
Additionally, the report showed older students are more likely to contract the virus than younger students:
The report emphasized that districts should make decisions about remote learning while working with local public health authorities.
“Schools continue to be required to work with state and local public health officials to follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine, and shifting to remote learning,” the report stated.
The CDPHE said that not only are elementary students at a lower risk for contracting the virus, but they also are less likely to have a meaningful learning experience at home without close parental supervision. Moreover, young students whose parents work outside the home may not be safe if left alone, the CDPHE said.
“With this in mind, some schools and local public health agencies may determine that elementary schools should continue in-person learning longer than middle or high schools based on their local needs and levels of COVID-19 transmission,” the report stated.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise rapidly in Colorado amid what the CDPHE described as a “third wave”:
The report added that implementing protective measures recommended by health officials can reduce — but not eliminate — the virus’ spread in schools.
“Understanding that close contacts of sick individuals will need to quarantine, all schools should
proactively adopt class schedules that limit the number of close contacts each individual has. Adoption of scheduling modalities such as block schedules, alternating in-person/remote scheduling, and small cohorts (including teachers, students, and support staff) will be not only prudent, but necessary for any continuity of in-person learning to be possible,” the report stated.
The CDPHE acknowledged the strain remote learning, hybrid schedules and “unreliable child care” are having on Colorado families.
“Students are facing a loss of learning, disproportionately felt in already-disadvantaged communities, and parents and guardians are struggling to maintain their jobs, careers, and mental health,” the agency said.
According to the CDPHE, one in four women are considering scaling back their careers or leaving the workforce entirely in order to help their children learn from home.