State leaders still don’t know whether students will return to the classroom in the fall

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s Department of Education released an online toolkit Tuesday afternoon, providing teachers and students with guidance on how to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. However, education leaders still do not know whether students will return to a classroom setting in the fall.

“We know that everybody wants that bottom-line answer, and we can’t give you that full, complete answer just yet,” said Katy Anthes, the state’s education commissioner.  

“We really do need to see how the next several weeks progress in the state of Colorado. Our goal — and I can tell you it’s the governor’s goal, it’s CDPHE’s (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) goal, and it’s CDE’s (Colorado Department of Education) goal – is to start in-person learning in the fall, but we really need to see how the data progresses,” said Anthes.

LINK: View the draft guidance on the state’s website.

The education department toolkit provides guidance for continuing social distancing during in-person learning. Desks would likely need to be placed six feet from each other, in accordance with CDC recommendations. Leaders are still discussing whether students and staff would need to wear masks.

The education guidelines also provide suggestions for schools that may need to offer staggered schedules or remote learning. Anthes said local districts would need to determine what best fits the needs of their students.

The state said it is aware that some students and families struggle with remote learning. Education leaders are working to identify those students to strategize how to improve those issues.

It is likely the toolkit provided by the state will change as the state’s COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.

“The school year will be affected by public health orders,” said Anthes.

Currently, the state’s guidance includes campus cleaning strategies and options for how schools could or should change course if campuses were to be overwhelmed with an outbreak.

“I think if that even if we have one student or one staff member that tested positive, we would consider there would be guidance around how you would shut down the school – whether that be for a very short amount of time or whether that be for a longer time,” said Anthes.

Gwen Buehler has an 11-year-old son in Broomfield who is about to start middle school. She wants him back in a classroom.

“It’s so key for them to be in a teacher classroom setting,” Buehler said.

 But she’s also concerned about the potential of reopening only to go to virtual learning again.

“That kind of makes things difficult to plan,” she said. “It’s really disruptive, too, to the kids.”

Priscilla Rahn, a teacher at Denver’s Hamilton Middle School, is trying to figure out how she will manage under strict guidelines.

“We’re having a lot of trouble prioritizing and figuring out what that looks like, especially for our students with the highest needs,” Rahn said.

While the state recommends mask wearing in schools, that currently is not a requirement for students and teachers.

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