Denver teachers want remote learning despite revised COVID health guidelines

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DENVER, Colo (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has shortened the amount of time students and teachers need to isolate following COVID-19.

The move aligns Colorado schools with guidance released by the CDC Thursday.

Effective immediately, students and teachers with mild symptoms of COVID-19 can stop isolating after five days if symptoms improve and if they are fever-free for 24 hours. They are still advised to wear a tight-fitting mask for five additional days both around others at home, and at school. 

The guidance comes as COVID continues to have a significant impact on Colorado schools. Friday, Adams County announced plans to go virtual from Jan. 10-14.

“We had a significant amount of staffing shortages that, in some places, led to a need to shift to remote learning because they simply did not have enough adults in the building, to serve the students,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert with the Colorado Education Association. 

On Friday, 26 Denver schools were operating with full or partial remote learning, with hundreds of teachers and students out sick with COVID-19.

Almost 150 Denver school staff members had positive COVID cases Friday, with 349 students also positive for the virus.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association is now asking Superintendent Alex Marrero to go remote for a full week, in a letter sent Thursday.

That letter says: 

Enough is enough.

We can not continuously ask our educators to give more. We must recognize the reality that our schools are in and take ACTION to support our educators — the ones who support our most valuable resource, our students. 

We call on DPS leadership to put safety first by: Moving the district to temporary remote learning for the remainder of this week and next to allow for students and staff to isolate, get through the testing back-log, and give infected students and staff time to heal. 

Emails to DPS Saturday to see if this was being considered were not immediately returned.

“We certainly are monitoring that very closely and can foresee other districts put the notice out that there could be a move to a remote learning just based on staffing shortages,” says Baca-Oehlert.

She says it’s important to prioritize in-person learning, but says there is concern among teachers about the potential spread of COVID-19 among those still recovering from the virus.

“We’re really going to need to be adamant about mask wearing, distancing, ventilation, all of those things that we know work to prioritize in-person learning,” she said. 

In December, the CDC released similar guidelines for people in the general public, reducing those isolation times from 10 days to five days.

  • Isolation recommendations align with CDC’s recent guidance for the general population:
    • Everyone with COVID-19 should stay home and isolate away from other people for at least five full days (day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the day of the positive viral test for asymptomatic people). People who have mild symptoms can end isolation after five full days only if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and if other symptoms have improved. They should wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home and in public for an additional five days. People who are unable to wear a mask around others, including children under the age of 2 years and people of any age with certain disabilities, should isolate for a full 10 days even if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
  • Students, teachers, and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for at least five days (day 0 through day 5) after exposure if they are in one of the following groups:
    • Ages 18 or older and completed the primary series of recommended vaccine, but have not received a recommended third (booster) dose when eligible.
    • Those who have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (completing the primary series) over two months ago and have not received a recommended booster dose.
    • Those who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.
    • People who are unable to wear a mask around others, including children under the age of 2 years and people of any age with certain disabilities, should quarantine for a full 10 days after exposure.
  • Students, teachers, and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they:
    • Are ages 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including third doses and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
    • Are ages 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Had a confirmed positive COVID-19 viral test within the last 90 days.

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