As Colorado braces for the COVID-19 peak to hit, 14 Denver metro area school districts jointly announced they will remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.
Superintendents on April 3 said it was a difficult decision but a necessary measure to keep their communities safe.
On April 1, Gov. Jared Polis extended statewide school closures through at least April 30 as a stay-at-home order remained in place through April 11, although Polis said that is likely to be extended.
An April 3 letter signed by 14 Denver metro area school districts said even once stay-at-home orders are lifted, social distancing measures and limited group gatherings are anticipated to stay in place for weeks or months.
“Given the nature of a school environment (classrooms, passing periods, buses, playgrounds, etc.) these restrictions are not practical within the school setting,” the letter states. “As such, there does not appear to be a viable way for us to convene traditional in-person learning this school year.”
The 14 school districts are Adams 12 Five Star, Adams 14, Aurora, Cherry Creek, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas County, Englewood, Jeffco, Littleton, Mapleton, Sheridan, Westminster and 27J school districts. 27J Schools encompasses parts of Adams, Broomfield and Weld counties.
Students throughout the area have not been in a classroom since mid-March. Most districts have started or will soon start remote learning.
The districts' joint letter states guidance from local health departments played a significant role in the superintendents collectively deciding to stay closed. COVID-19 will likely peak in late April in Colorado, according to numerous models, the letter states.
Making a concrete decision on whether or not to resume in-person learning will allow districts to “focus our energy and attention” toward questions and concerns and end the uncertainty around school resuming.
“The key factor leading to this decision is guidance from county health officials and the information shared in the governor's announcement that the impact of COVID-19 is likely to peak from mid-April through possibly July,” said Jeffco Public Schools in a letter to the community.
Also in a letter to the community, Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ewert said the virus makes it impossible to return to school this spring.
“We also know that the virus will continue to pose a significant threat for an unknown period of time after it peaks,” Ewert wrote.
Douglas County School District Superintendent Thomas Tucker called the pandemic's effect on public schools unprecedented in a letter to the district community.
“I encourage you and your loved ones to continue following the advice and guidance of healthcare professionals,” Tucker wrote.
School closures spurred mixed emotions as school communities weighed the need to take urgent public health measures with the effect remote learning will have on education.
Ewert said “distance learning can never replace the quality and equity LPS can deliver in person,” so the district's goal is to “recalibrate our expectations, remain flexible and not let distance learning become too stressful for our students, families and staff.”
Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Scott Siegfried said the district will aim to provide students the best education possible.
“We will continue to focus on and refine our remote learning system, to ensure that all of our 55,000 learners are receiving high-quality educational experiences through the end of the school year,” he wrote.
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