The Dolores School District finalized its reopening plan Tuesday evening after receiving approval from the school board.
The plan includes in-person and online learning options for students for the school year, which will have a one-week delayed start on Aug. 31. As of late July, the school district does not expect the school year to be extended further into the summer.
The district formed an advisory council of medical professionals, business owners, parents, teachers and administrators to develop the back-to-school plan for students in Dolores.
Superintendent Lis Richard said in an email statement that 85% of the school district’s students plan to return to the physical classroom, and the remaining 15% will take online classes.
The school district also surveyed teachers, and found that about 5% of them had concerns about reopening schools, Richard said. To address their concerns, the school district will install plexiglass desk shields for their reading groups. Art teachers also have requested shields for demonstration areas.
“Our teachers miss their students and are ready to get back to work,” Richard said.
Social distancing guidelinesNew guidelines from the Colorado Department of Education do not require students to be spaced 6 feet apart when it is not feasible, but Richard said it is something the school district is working toward.
Elementary school students do not need to meet the 6-feet requirement, because recent COVID-19 studies have shown young children are much less likely to transmit the virus.
Colored tape on the ground and other visuals will guide students on where they need to stand in lines and in hallways to create social distance.
The school district also will provide hand sanitizer, thermometers and gloves throughout the school year.
Staff and teachers also intend to work with students with special needs to meet their individual learning requirements during the pandemic.
“We will do everything we need to do to maintain their safety,” Richard said.
Mask wearingThe state has mandated that high school teachers and students need to wear masks at all times. Richard said teachers at all grade levels will use masks when they can’t social distance.
“We will create a culture of respect,” she said. The Colorado Department of Education encourages younger children to wear a cloth covering over their face except during recess and when they exercise.
The school district also will avoid organizing large in-person gatherings such as assemblies, field trips and staff meetings.
Health screeningThe Dolores School District created an app, called Dolores SD, for parents to fill out each morning to confirm their child does not have COVID-19 symptoms. If the parent does not fill the app out in the morning, school staff will screen the student for COVID-19 when they arrive at school by taking their temperature and asking about COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough.
Backup planIf there is another outbreak or resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the school district will move to a hybrid plan. The student body will be divided into two cohorts.
The A cohort will go to the physical classroom on Mondays and Wednesdays, with online learning through Google Classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The B cohort will go to the physical classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with online learning on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Teachers will use Fridays to check in individually with students or parents.
Because of the large disruption to students’ education experience, as well as the possibility of heightened feelings of isolation or loneliness, the school district’s plan states that “an emphasis will be placed on training all staff on recognizing signs of depression and anxiety.”