The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Battle Rock Charter School to use a conference room in the Montelores Community Parish as a backup space for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current guidelines from the Colorado Department of Education allow for the 70-student body of Battle Rock school to meet for in-person classes at the main campus outside Cortez. Should the pandemic worsen and social distancing restrictions for schools increase, Battle Rock could rotate its students between the main campus and the conference room in downtown Cortez to accommodate new guidelines.
“This is all COVID-19 related,” said Susan Thomas, administrator for Battle Rock Charter School. The main campus is far from town, and if spacing on school buses becomes an issue with social distancing guidelines, having a space closer to parents is better, she said.
Many families with children attending Battle Rock also do not have internet access.
“That was a big problem in the spring,” Thomas said.
If the number of COVID-19 cases rises, and the school is required to do a mix of in-person and online learning, students could go to the conference room in the parish to use a computer with reliable Wi-Fi.
Commissioners Lance McDaniel and Rebecca Levy expressed concern about student safety crossing the streets in the busy downtown Cortez area.
McDaniel urged the school to use diligence in creating a safer crossing area, and expand the places parents could pick up and drop off their children.
“We will have staff waiting to take students in,” Thomas said, and the school will also urge parents to walk with their children to the parish.
But Battle Rock will most likely use the conference room for one-on-one tutoring or as a space for students to access the internet if they can’t at home, so student drop off and pick up would be staggered, Thomas said.
“That eases my mind,” Levy said.
The Cortez Public Works Department has offered to repaint crosswalks in front of the parish that have faded over time, said Cortez City Planner Tracie Hughes.
The Cortez city attorney also recommended additional signs on the surrounding streets to indicate it is a school zone.
Commissioner Tom Butler initiated a motion to recommend approval, which was seconded by Chairman Robert Rime. It passed unanimously.
The permit now awaits final approval from the Cortez City Council.