JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Like most Colorado parents, Justin Horton finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Jefferson County father spends his weekdays policing his 8-year-old son to try to keep him focused on school.
“I feel like I’m failing him,” Horton said. “I yell a lot more than I should. I’m trying to keep that under control but there are so many times I can go, ‘Get off YouTube, go back to school. Get off YouTube, go back to school.’”
Horton’s situation is unique. He has an autoimmune disease, and so the family is a lot more cautious about bringing COVID into the home. Typically, Jeffco students from preschool to fifth grade are back to 100% in-person learning. Horton doesn’t want to take the risk of sending his son back to Thompson Elementary School until he knows it’s completely safe.
“Very concerned that he may not even pass third grade,” Horton said.
Jeffco Public Schools says it is working toward confirming a date to return to 100% in-person learning, and hopes to announce that date as soon as possible. A district spokesperson says one of the key contingencies for this plan is the availability and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to educators and district employees.
Jeffco Public Schools employs roughly 14,000 people in the district. During a town hall, district leadership says 2,681 staff have reported getting the first dose of the vaccine already, since becoming eligible on Feb. 8.
“Got it, it went very smoothly, and looking forward to the second one,” said Dale Munnholland, who teaches A.P. History at Pomona High School.
Munnholland says the idea of being back in the classroom fully vaccinated brings him peace of mind.
“I love — absolutely love — everything I do,” Munholland said. “Except grading — I don’t like grading. But everything else is fantastic. What I miss the most is the interaction with the students.”
But there are concerns about the logistics that need to be taken care of before a return to full in-person learning can happen.
“We’ve got to figure out busing, we’ve got to figure out the lunch situation, we’ve got to figure out schedules, class schedules,” Munnholland said. “There’s no way we can socially distance in a classroom. Classrooms are small to begin with.”
Munnholland says he would like to see the district bring all stakeholders to the table, from teachers to staff, parents to community members and students, when coming up with a plan for 100% in-person learning.
A spokesperson for Jeffco Public Schools shared the following statement with the Problem Solvers on that effort:
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our goal was and continues to be the return of 100% in-person learning for all grade levels. District leadership is collaborating with our public health entities, individual school leadership representing their staff and community, our educator and staff associations, and our collaborative monitoring committee to determine the safest and most manageable date to begin full-time in-person learning for all grade levels (at this time this means 6-12 to be added to PK-5 which is already in full-time in-person learning).