In the fall, Jeffco Public Schools students can head to their campuses on a scheduled remote and in-person learning rotation to prevent too many children and staff members from congregating at once. Social distancing would apply during recess. Temperature controls and symptom testing would be required to enter the doors, and masks would be recommended but not required.
Jeffco Public Schools announced on Friday the most comprehensive plan that Colorado residents have seen outlining what the school could look like in the fall amid the new coronavirus pandemic. The plan is considered a draft to be modified by community input and changes in public health guidelines, but it offers insight into the murky future of trying to teach and learn after the new highly contagious coronavirus closed school buildings in nationwide in March and disrupted education. according to what we know.
"We hear a lot from the polar ends," said Superintendent Jeffco Jason Glass. "One side says there is no way to keep everyone safe and keep everyone at home. But there are costs for remote learning: academic, social, emotional and financial costs. It is not without risks to continue doing only remote learning."
"So we hear a lot from this other extreme that it is a hoax: that you must effectively pretend that this is not happening and restore all learning in person." We reject the extreme and polar opposites. We have to find a middle ground that restores in-person learning as much as possible, but we want to do it in a way that takes all prudent steps to keep our staff and students safe. "
Jeffco sought guidance in countries opening schools in other parts of the world, along with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health guidelines and consultations with other Front Range districts, Glass said.
The plan looks at three approaches depending on how the pandemic develops: a traditional return to school, a remote return, or a combination. The most likely approach would be a hybrid plan with elements within the school, including new coronavirus symptom detection, one-way roads in all buildings with signs telling people where to go, keeping windows and doors open when it is safe to allowing the circulation of fresh air and limiting the exchange of school supplies.
Eventually, Glass hopes that tests for COVID-19 will be available in the district.
For the fall, Glass expects the six-foot distance social distancing guidelines to be maintained, though he's not sure how many people will be able to meet in a classroom.
"We have to see how many square feet there are in a classroom, how many people are in a classroom," Glass said. "That means we can't get everyone back. It will take us on divided schedules."
Glass proposed "A,quot; and "B,quot; days or weeks where students would exchange time spent learning from home with time in a classroom with a limited number of students and staff.
The plan said Jeffco would be flexible in scheduling educators based on his personal needs and the needs of his students.
"Another challenge we have to design is childcare for our own teachers," Glass said. "We cannot create a system where a teacher is working on an,quot; A "day but their child is at home that same day."
There will be a remote option only for parents who do not want to send their children to school, Glass said.
Melissa Wallace, a Jeffco mother for elementary, middle and high school students, believes it is time to send the students back. She said the mental health implications and academic ramifications of keeping children learning from home and connected to their screens outweighs the risks of the new coronavirus for their family, although she said she understands that others would feel differently depending on your health and age.
He also noted that while his family might have a father who would stay home with their children, some families would not have the luxury.
"At what cost do we keep doing this?" Wallace said. “The reality as parents is that we weigh the risks every day for our children. How far do we let this go before saying OK, maybe it's time to weigh the risk? I don't see that there is a sufficient risk for my children. I have healthy children and I am grateful for that. I feel like we should be able to make that decision for our family. We are fortunate enough to be able to resolve any situation they put to work, but if they tell me that my 9-year-old son can only go to school one day a week, maybe we will look at some private school options. ”
Jeffco seeks input from parents on when the school year should begin. Some institutions of higher education, such as Regis Private University of Denver, are starting their academic calendars early in an attempt to finish the semester ahead of a predicted flu wave and a potential second wave of the new coronavirus.
Glass said this is a possibility, but starting later would allow more preparation to get the fall semester off to a good start. Jeffco's academic year was scheduled to begin on August 18.
"We should also expect outbreaks to occur or things to happen over the course of this next year, where we will have to close the school in the next few days and restart again," Glass said. “We can go through in-person and remote learning periods. We're trying to think of all the possible ways this could happen with the goal of restoring as much in-person learning as we can. "
While masks will be recommended, Glass said Jeffco does not require them unless the public health guide changes.
"We started in a place that required them, but we are concerned with two things: Younger children who play with them all the time and touch their faces can be worse," Glass said. "In addition to playing with the masks or touching the faces, there are some things around teaching language and teaching reading that you need to see someone's mouth and face."
Jeffco leads school districts in the Denver metro area in publishing his fall plan.
"You have to think ahead as much as possible and anticipate what will happen," Glass said. "What put us at the forefront of remote learning ahead of other districts is that we were observing the virus as it was already moving around the world and seeing what other school districts are doing internationally."
The Denver Public Schools expects to release their fall reopening guidelines in early June.
The Boulder Valley School District released a smaller set of guidelines last week that explains what the school can be like in the reintroduction phases.
For phase two of its plan, BVSD said the restrictions would allow limited in-person learning activities to resume for a small group of prioritized students who may not have equitable access to education through remote learning.
"We just have to be adaptable," said Jeffco Superintendent Glass. "There are many things that we don't know yet."