Denver schools planning on in-person learning 5 days a week

Denver Public Schools is planning to welcome its students back to campus five days a week this fall, making a notable departure from a proposal earlier this summer to mix in-person and online learning.

Superintendent Susana Cordova announced the plans Friday on Facebook, adding the district will also offer a remote, online option for families that don’t feel comfortable physically returning to school. Students who do return to the classroom will be required to wear masks.

“If you’re a parent and you have children and you’re worried about them being back in school, the 100% online program will allow your kids to have a full school experience using online classes,” Cordova said. “For everybody else, school will reopen five days a week for all of our students, but it’s gonna look very different.”

The announcement comes roughly two months after DPS said it was considering a hybrid learning approach for the fall to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. That included splitting students into “A” and “B” groups to alternately attend in-person classes and supplement that with remote work to help officials adhere to public health and social distancing guidelines.

But the district changed its perspective after receiving updated guidance from Metro Denver Partnership for Health, Cordova said. The group, which consists of six local public health agencies, released a report Thursday recommending schools reopen using risk-reduction strategies it said will mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While there’s certainly the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in a school, the report’s authors said children are not the primary drivers of disease transmission and that keeping facilities closed does more harm than good.

“Opening our schools in the fall is one of the most important components of reopening the metro area,” said Bill Burman, executive director of Denver Public Health and co-chair of the partnership, in a statement. “Schools support the social, emotional and intellectual growth of children, and they allow parents to get back to work.”

In her video address, Cordova outlined several new strategies DPS would implement to keep its students, staff and facilities safe. Students will be put into cohorts that will stay together throughout the day to limit kids’ interactions with other students and staff. If someone in a cohort tests positive for the novel coronavirus, everyone in the cohort will need to quarantine for 14 days, Cordova said.

For middle and high school students, officials are considering scheduling changes to minimize their movement throughout the day, Cordova said. One possibility is a four-by-four schedule, which means students take four classes each term buy cheap essay.

“Classes are longer on a single day, but shorter across the year and so it minimizes the number of interactions kids have while they’re in school,” she said.

Every person will be required to do a health screening before coming to school and to wear a mask unless they have a medical reason not to, she said. DPS is also planning to designate specific doors as building entrances and exits, make hallways one-way, and evaluate school ventilation system in preparation for the fall semester.

It’s likely schools will stagger student arrival and dismissal times to accommodate social distancing on buses, she said.

“Guidance does allow one student per seat, which is a lot fewer kids than typically ride a bus, so we know we’ll have to do a route more than once,” Cordova said. “Mask usage will be very important on all of our buses… We will have very strict protocols around disinfecting our schools, including our buses.”

DPS, the state’s largest district, joins a growing number of districts to adopt in-person classes five days a week, including Westminster Public Schools and Mapleton Public Schools. Jeffco Public Schools is hosting elementary school students back in the same way, but has yet to decide on a format for middle and high schoolers.

Cordova reiterated that if health guidance changes, so will the district’s plan.

“We’ve been really clear that we are absolutely going to follow the health and safety guidance to make sure what we’re doing aligns with the health experts, and if at any point we need to shift, that’s what we’ll do,” she said. “Our aspiration is to be able to launch this school year with our students back in school where we know they need to be.”

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