DPS School Board member calls for October start for in-person learning

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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools has already put together a plan for in-person learning for the upcoming school year—starting in August.

DPS Board of Education member Tay Anderson is looking to amend that plan, though.

“If we are going to see a rise in COVID cases, then we have to pump the brakes of saying ‘we shouldn’t welcome kids back at this time,’” Anderson said.

“We should still do remote learning and then transition into a full day of in-person learning in October, if public health guidelines permit,” he added.

It’s an idea Anderson posted on Twitter over the weekend, after hearing feedback from DPS parents, students, and teachers.

“Another unintended consequence is ‘will teachers actually come back?’ That’s a big question. I’ve heard from three teachers already that said they’d resign because of the current plans of moving forward with in-person learning. They said ‘I can’t put my family or myself at that risk of potentially bringing a virus back to us,’” Anderson explained.

Anderson says there would be some exceptions, for students with special needs.

“We would be able to meet the needs of our IEP and Special Education, and ELL students—so we can make sure that they are still getting that direct 1 to 1 contact, and we are still making sure we are following the consent decree and federal laws that protect different students in different classes,” Anderson told FOX31.

He believes a later in-person start would solve another problem, pointing out more than 60 DPS schools don’t have air conditioning.

The district’s current back-to-school plan requires students wear masks while inside the building.

“I support wearing a mask. [But] It’s hard at times to breathe in some of these. That’s another red flag that was raised for me. If we bring them back, how do we actually monitor the face mask issue, and how is it going to be working for all of our children?”

DPS Board Members Rev. Bradley Laurvick and Dr. Carrie Olson released a joint statement on Sunday:

“DPS has been proactively creating a variety of ways to care for our students and staff during the pandemic.  We have three main options: fully remote, hybrid, and in-person with a choice to be remote. Each of these plans has been developed in partnership with local health officials, educators, and is informed by the community feedback we are receiving.” 

“We are developing a slow and incremental start to the school year, that starts in phases as we begin, so we move intentionally and prepared. Our commitment is to be ready to adapt to circumstances as need be. Our number one priority in this crisis is the health and safety needs of all students and employees. We are grateful for the community input and the dedication of team DPS in responding to it.”

The remote learning options are open to K-12 students, but Anderson says he’s still concerned about student safety.

“Right now, the worst case scenario is that we’re not able to control this, and then we have outbreaks around the city and county of Denver—and it could be solely responsible on that fact that we opened our schools early.”

One of the major questions he’s working on answering from parents is what type of childcare option would be available during remote learning.

[There’s] no concrete plan that my office has rolled out just yet. I’m just listening to the parents, and I’ve heard enough feedback to say ‘I understand where you’re coming from.’”

Anderson says he’ll continue to support his colleagues, even if he doesn’t agree with the plan for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

“I think a lot of them are like, ‘we want to follow what’s best for our public health experts. President Olson, and Director Laurvick from the Northwest, have been sitting in with public health experts, have been on this call since ‘day 1’ of this pandemic. So I trust them.”

Ultimately, the Superintendent Susana Cordova will have the final say on any proposed changes.

“She’ll have to take all our feedback and come up with a plan with her team,” Anderson said.

“At the end of the day, even if I don’t agree with the final decision, I’m going to make sure that our families still feel supported and still understand that school board members are still working for them.”

If you would like to submit feedback and comments, e-mail: board@dpsk12.org.

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