JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Jeffco Public Schools will be moving all students in grades 6-12 to full remote learning next Monday, while K-5 students will continue with in-person learning through next Thursday before going remote starting Nov. 30 after Thanksgiving break.
The decision by the district was announced in a message from Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh Thursday evening after Board of Education meeting on Wednesday and after district officials met with Jefferson County Public Health officials. Douglas County Schools announced a similar decision not long before Jeffco's decision was released Thursday.
“Simply put, we’ve now reached the point at which the benefits of in-person learning are outweighed by the disruption caused by abrupt transitions to quarantines and by the risk of COVID-19 exposures within our buildings,” Schuh wrote. “Today, we consulted with JCPH and they concurred with that assessment.”
Preschool classes will remain 100% in person, and district childcare will continue, the superintendent said.
This Friday was already scheduled as a transition day for staff and families in grades 6-12, in which students will be expected to log in for attendance and continue with asynchronous learning. Individual schools will have the say over when and how students can come collect their belongings.
Schuh wrote that the remote classes will continue until winter break, when officials will re-evaluate whether they can return to in-person learning in January.
For elementary schools, Friday, Nov. 20 will be a non-student-contact day.
Students at all grade levels will do synchronous learning Mondays through Thursdays during the remote learning period and Friday’s learning will be determined by each school, the district said.
Some Career and Technical Education programs will continue in person. The schools or program will communicate those decisions, Schuh said. Students with significant disabilities will continue with in-person learning Monday through Friday.
Sports will be allowed to continue for Season A, but no spectators will be allowed at any of the events.
“We know this is not the news any of us wanted to hear,” Schuh wrote. “We must keep the health and wellness of our community as our collective priority. We understand this is extremely disappointing especially to our students; however, we must also do our part to slow the spread of this virus.”
The decision mirrors what was discussed at the board meeting Wednesday, where there were discussions of having students in PK-5 remain in-person while students grades 6-12 would go remote starting Monday.
At the meeting, Schuh said growing numbers lead him believes it's inevitable elementary will eventually pivot to fully remote learning.
During the meeting, Schuh said it's becoming increasingly difficult to operate schools with more cases and staff taking care of family members or in quarantine. Within the last day, the district has had to quarantine well over 100 people, which is leading to a high need for substitute teachers, according to Jeffco Public Schools Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Tom McDermott.
Schuh said at Wednesday’s meeting by moving the county into Level Orange Safer at Home on the state's COVID-19 dial, they no longer have the targeted contact identification process. This means when they have a positive case at a school, anyone who was in the same room as the person must quarantine, leading to a large increase quarantined individuals.
Schuh said the district was currently sending 40% of their staff from the Education Center to schools every day to continue school operations.
The pressure to move to remote learning had been mounting. On Wednesday, the Jefferson County Education Association Council released a statement saying they voted overwhelmingly to demand that Jefferson County move to 100% remote learning for K-12.
“The time has come for our district to pivot towards safety as community spread of COVID-19 has passed the point in which it is safe for our students and staff to remain in person,” JCEA President Brooke Williams said.
JCEA said moving to fully remote learning for a defined period of time will eliminate the constant upheaval for students, parents, educators and the entire community and will ensure a safe learning environment.
Schuh wrote Thursday that officials would be monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and making decisions based on the progress made in the county.
“As we have stated from the beginning, our goal is to offer as much in-person learning as safely as possible in alignment with public health guidance. Our sincere hope is that we will be able to return to in-person learning for all students after winter break,” Schuh wrote. “Communication regarding a potential timeline to return our students to in-person learning will be sent to Jeffco families and staff during winter break. It will take our community working together to reduce the spread of this virus.”