DENVER – Colorado’s largest school district is cancelling classes for three weeks in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in Colorado.
Denver Public Schools will be closed starting Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 6. The district is calling the district-wide closure “an extended spring break.” Schools will run as normal on Friday, March 13.
“Currently, we do not know the impact on CMAS or if there will be make-up days in the summer,” reads a letter from the district obtained by Denver7 ahead of the announcement.
Because it is an extended spring break, the district is not offering remote or online learning for students but will reevaluate if the closures are extended.
During a news conference Thursday evening, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova said school buildings would still be open next Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17, respectively, but that those days would not be instruction days. Families would be allowed to get backpacks, jackets, school supplies, medications, etc.
Starting Wednesday, March 18 and going through Friday, April 3, the district will deploy cleaning crews to thoroughly disinfect schools throughout the district in preparation for the students’ return.
“The reasons that we worked with the (Denver) school district to make these challenging decisions were… we now have evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Denver,” said Dr. William J. Burman of Denver Health at the news conference. “We think that a period of time in which the schools are closed is one of the measures that we can use to protect both the children themselves, their families and the broader community. We think we can decrease the spread of this virus throughout our community with these social distancing measures, including school closures, and that that will help mitigate the challenges of this viral infection.”
Cordova also said the district would not be offering any camps as the purpose of the three-week closure is to help “institute social distancing.”
She also mentioned the district is planning on creating food distribution sites across eight regions so that students would be able to access food. Breakfast would be available from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch at noon until 1 p.m., free of charge.
Those locations are Abraham Lincoln High School in southwest Denver, Schumacher Elementary School in southeast Denver, Place Bridge Academy in central-southeast Denver, the Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS Denver) in central Denver, North High School in northwest Denver, Manual High School in near-northeast Denver, Montbello in the Montbello neighborhood, and the Evie Dennis campus in Green Valley Ranch.
Cordova called the measures implemented by the district “the most responsible and prudent thing to do in the interest of everybody’s health and safety,” adding the district is working with the Colorado Department of Education to figure out what makeup time will look like after students come back from their extended spring break.
The superintendent on Thursday also said the district would be working with the Department of Education to determine the next steps when it comes to state and national student assessments.
In the letter to staff obtained by Denver7 before the announcement, the district said they wanted to reiterate “that there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in our schools but they are taking this step of social distancing to hopefully prevent spread.”
The announcement from DPS came minutes after the Cherry Creek School District said it would close all schools starting Friday, March 13 through Friday, March 27 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The closure in that district also affects daycare, officials said in a tweet.
Earlier Thursday, John H. Amesse Elementary School in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood closed after officials learned that two family members of a student had tested positive for coronavirus.
Cory Elementary and Edison Elementary in Denver also closed Thursday due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Several other school districts across the state announced Thursday they would be cancelling classes to mitigate the spread of the new virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
The move by Denver Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District follows the decision by 27J in Brighton and the Gunnison Watershed School District to cancel classes until late March. Aurora Public Schools, Jeffco Schools, Littleton Public Schools, Douglas County Schools, the Boulder Valley School District, St. Vrain Valley Schools, among others, also announced school closures on Thursday.