GOLDEN, Colo. — Jeffco Public Schools on Wednesday announced its plans to offer both 100% in-person learning and remote learning for all grades beginning in August.
Pre-K through 12th grade will begin classes the week of Aug. 24, according to the plan released superintendent Jason Glass.
All students will have the option of attending classes in person or taking classes remotely from home.
The restart plan — which is the first to be announced by a major Colorado school district — includes an array of health and safety precautions, including:
• Six-foot social distancing "practiced to the fullest level possible"
• Use of common spaces such as cafeterias, gyms and auditoriums will be prohibited for large and mixed-group uses (students will eat lunch in their classrooms through a "grab and go" program)
• Staff and students wearing face coverings when social distancing is not possible
• Symptom screening
• Student grouping limitations wherever possible
• Regular hand washing
• Shared items and school materials will be reduced
• Increased building ventilation and "fresh air mixture to the greatest extent possible"
There will be no hybrid option since the district says the idea isn’t necessarily safer for students and staff.
“Another major concern we have those hybrid models was also the disruption of being in person and then remote and then in person and then remote. It actually doubles the work for the teacher,” Glass said.
All students and staff will undergo symptom screenings and temperature checks each day before entering the building.
Some districts like Denver Public Schools are allowing their students and staff to complete those screenings at home.
However, for now, those screenings will need to happen in person,
“Right now, we’re concerned that they won’t be accurate and so we’re proceeding with right now is staggered entries and entry times in different entrances around the school,” Glass said.
Recess will also be staggered so that fewer kids are let out at once. The buildings will also have their ventilation increased to try to circulate fresh air.
The district says it did reach out to families and teachers groups while coming up with the plan.
However, Brooke Williams, the president of the Jefferson County Education Association, said she would have liked teachers and staff to be able to have more of a say on the final version.
“I would really like to see us bargain what that looks like with our district and have a vote on whether or not were comfortable with these models that they are presenting,” Williams said.
Williams says she was caught a bit off-guard when the district announced that all in-person instruction would be resuming in the Fall and she worries about the safety of staff and students.
“I Just want to make sure that we get this right,” Williams said. “I don’t want to lose my students to this, I don’t want to lose my peers and fellow educators to this either.”
For the families that do not feel comfortable with their kids returning to class, students will have the option to continue their education online.
Staff with health conditions will also be able to request to teach remotely, however not everyone will be guaranteed that option.
“With our staff will have to look at can we make the numbers match up? If we can accommodate everybody that requested that would be great, but if we can’t will have to do some looking at the severity of different conditions that people have and think about who really needs this,” Glass said.
The district is also looking at allowing teachers to be able to take a leave of absence for the year if they don’t want to work or aren’t given the option of working remotely.
The Jeffco district in June announced it would be offering in-person classes for elementary students but had not yet decided a plan for middle and high schools.
Jeffco, which includes 155 schools and more than 84,000 students, was the first major district in Colorado to announce in-person plans, though Gov. Jared Polis has said he anticipates schools will be able to resume in-person learning in the fall. Most districts have not released specific plans.
In May, the Colorado Department of Education released draft guidelines for districts to start planning for the return of students for in-person learning.
The guidelines recognize that significant physical distancing will likely continue through fall, and in-class instruction will need to be flexible.
Some of the toolkits' suggestions include staggering school schedules to limit the number of students in a building. Also, spacing desks 6 feet apart to comply with state health guidelines. Another possibility is mixing remote learning and small-group in-person learning.