Schools begin back to school planning with new guidance from health department

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) – It’s almost one month until students will begin heading back to school after an incredibly complicated year for every district.

Teachers were pulled in different directions, having to teach both in-person and remote, facing a slew of challenges and headaches. Parents had to find ways to keep their children focused during ZOOM lectures and lessons while working at home.

Students were finally brought back to classrooms at the end of the school year as vaccination rollouts picked up.

Now, all eyes are on school board members and administrators, forced to make difficult and complex decisions on what the 2021-2022 school year should look like to keep everyone safe.

“We want to make sure that schools remain a safe place, and this plan outlines ways to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting, while facilitating in-person learning,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

The new guidance gives schools COVID-19 prevention strategies, from encouraging eligible students to get the vaccine, to properly ventilating classrooms. 

“Our data demonstrate a clear association between Colorado’s increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates and decreasing case, hospitalization, and death rates,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE. “Yet our unvaccinated Coloradans remain vulnerable to the new variants, especially the Delta variant, which appears to be more likely to make young people ill than previous variants. Because many students have yet to be vaccinated and students under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, we must continue to remain vigilant, take important mitigation steps that can reduce transmission of COVID-19, and address outbreaks in a safe and thoughtful manner.” 

FOX31 has reached out to several Denver area school districts for current back-to-school plans.
Jefferson County Public Schools said on Wednesday, they continue to review the new guidance from CDPHE, and plan to make a formal announcement soon as to what students and parents should prepare for, and what options might be available to them.

At the end of the school year, Jeffco was not requiring masks for vaccinated students and classes were back to normal, with remote learning still an option.

Aurora Public Schools just released its 2021-22 learning models for students.

APS Learning Models for the 2021-22 School Year

“We are reviewing the updated guidance from CDPHE and will be sharing more information about our health and safety protocols for 2021-22 as soon as possible with our community,” said Corey Christiansen, with APS. 

APS will allow certain students to choose whether they want to learn fully in-person, fully remote, or a hybrid. Preschool students will not have an option however, learning fully in-person during the entire school year.

Cherry Creek School District has goals for the upcoming school year, including a “Phase-in” approach to the start of the year.

“Many of our students experienced trauma during the past year due to the isolation and stress of the pandemic. My goal for next year is to ensure all students have the social-emotional and mental health support they need to transition out of the pandemic and into a successful school year,” said Superintendent Christopher Smith.

“To aid in that goal, we will have a Phase-In start to the school year during the first three days of school in August. That means some grades will come to school on Monday, August 16, and some grades will come on Tuesday, August 17. All grade levels will be back in the classroom starting Wednesday, August 18. Please see the following table for details about elementary and middle school dates. All kindergarten students will receive specific information from their schools. High school students will hear directly from their school about the Phase-In schedule.”

Monday, August 16Tuesday, August 17Wednesday, August 18
 Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6Grade 9  Grades 1, 2, 7 and 8All grades

The goal of the Phase-In is to allow students to have time with their teachers in smaller settings and a more supportive start to the year. Families will receive details about the first week of school from their student’s school by early August.

The Douglas County School District also plans on helping students deal with “heightened anxiety and trauma” as they transition back to a stable learning environment. For example – they’re allowing kindergarten students to take part in a Balanced Beginnings program, which allows students to slowly move back into a classroom setting while meeting other students and their teachers. Some middle and high schools also have dedicated days to allow new students to visit their new building, find their classrooms and meet other students. Face coverings will also be strongly encouraged, but not required which the district says aligns with state and local health agencies.

“We will honor the decision of parents when it comes to their children wearing or not wearing a face covering in school,” the district said in an email that was sent to parents. “We will use our space in schools classrooms, and other areas to support each and every student with safe learning environments.”

FOX31 is still waiting on responses from Jefferson County Public Schools and Denver Public Schools.

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