DENVER – The Douglas County School District will move all students to remote learning starting Nov. 30 amid the county’s move to Safer at Home Level Orange and as thousands of students and staff in the district are currently quarantined.
The decision from the district comes after a board meeting Tuesday in which officials said the district would likely move to remote learning soon but said a decision would be made at a later date.
The decision came down Thursday afternoon in a letter from the interim superintendent after the district was informed Douglas County will be moving to Level Orange on Friday, which carries more restrictions for the county and its schools.
The district said that as of Thursday, more than 5,000 students and staffers were in quarantine and 13 schools were remote learning, and that those numbers appeared as though they would rise in the coming days.
“This is creating a staffing shortage for in-person learning that can no longer be overcome,” Interim Superintendent Corey Wise said in a letter to district families.
The Douglas County School District said it will re-evaluate the COVID-19 numbers in the county in December before making decisions about next semester, which is currently scheduled to resume on Jan. 4 for staff and Jan. 5 for students.
For elementary schools, the last day of in-person learning will be next Thursday, Nov. 19, with a teacher work day scheduled for Nov. 20. Thanksgiving break is the next week, and students will start remote on Monday, Nov. 30.
Middle and high school students will follow their cohort schedule next week, with Cohort AA’s last day of in-person learning on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and Cohort B’s last day on Thursday, Nov. 19. That Friday will also be a teacher work day for middle and high schools in the district.
Families with students in the eLearning/eDCSD programs or at charter schools within the district will need to check with their schools regarding learning schedules for Friday, Nov. 20.
Students will be asked next week to take home their school work, supplies, technology devices and personal belongings, as well as medications and musical instruments. Families that need a hot spot can request one by clicking here.
The district’s Nutrition Services Department will start meal bag pickup sites to distribute free meals to children 18 and under on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 to p.m. at these locations.
Schools will finish out their high school football season, but spectators will be limited to 175 people.
Wise, the interim superintendent, wrote in his letter to families that the district is working to build out a pool of substitute teachers that, if filled, “may help us get students back to hybrid and/or in-person learning after the holidays.”
But Wise said that the move was currently the only option.
"We want our families to know that our teachers and staff very much wanted to continue with in-person learning. Making the decision to transition to remote learning, yet again, has been absolutely heartbreaking. We know it is better for our students to be in school, in-person, with their peers, and amazing educators. However, the high number of cases and quarantines is creating an environment where many of our students and teachers no longer have a predictable school routine,” he said in the letter.
“…There are times when families are provided notice of a school transition to remote learning the evening before the change takes effect. This lack of predictability is stressful, and unfair to our students, staff, and families.”
Furthermore, Wise added, the large number of cases and contacts have led to staff being overwhelmed with tracing efforts.
“Each time we have a COVID-19 case reported in a school our nurses, principals, registrars, and others must spend countless hours contact tracing to determine which students may have been in close contact with the infected person,” Wise wrote. “We are simply getting to a point where our phenomenal staff are spending more time contact tracing than on providing students with the public education they need and deserve.”
Douglas County School District is just the latest metro-area district to move most or all of their students to full remote learning. Click here for the latest Colorado coronavirus updates.