Students will be back in school sooner and for more time each week under modifications of Durango School District 9-R’s plan to return to in-person learning made Thursday.
The more aggressive schedule brings the district’s plan more in line with state recommendations and is based on data showing risks at schools are manageable with proper practices aimed to lower COVID-19 transmissions, said 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
“State guidance really does call, at the Orange Level, for elementary and middle school children to be back. And so what we’ve done is we’ve accelerated our return of those students,” he said.
The decision to speed the return to in-person learning was not a consensus, with many in the district calling for a more gradual return to in-school learning.
“This was a compromise, and ultimately, we had to bring some people along on our task force to an understanding that we had to move more rapidly,” Snowberger said.
A poll of the Durango Education Association, the district’s teachers union, had about 140 responses, and a majority of teachers do not support the state guidance calling for a more aggressive return to in-person learning, Snowberger said.
“There are teachers who are not satisfied with this plan, but I know there will be parents who also want all of their kids back tomorrow. It’s a compromise,” he said.
The district, he added, has mitigated risk of COVID-19 transmission to a degree at which safety for students and staff members can be ensured “to the best degree possible.”
“It’s really important to get our kids back to school,” Snowberger said. “We don’t discount the fears some people have. Those fears are real. But we have to move beyond them because our kids are suffering.”
Personal protective equipment will be used by teachers with an aim to minimize the need for staff quarantines, and the days for quarantines have been reduced based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Those measures should put the school district on a stronger footing to assure parents that 9-R will not be forced to go back to remote, at-home learning.
“Barring major changes, like the new strain massively spreading in the community, like we’ve seen in other countries, we want to commit to parents that when elementary kids come back, we’re not going to send them back home,” Snowberger said.
Here’s a summary of the plan:
Elementary schoolsNext week, in-person classes will be held Monday and Tuesday.
Through January, the number of days students attend in-person classes will gradually increase to four days a week.
For the week beginning Jan. 18, which includes the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday: In-person learning at schools will be held Tuesday, Jan. 19; Thursday, Jan. 21; and Friday, Jan. 22.
For the week beginning Jan. 25: In-person learning will take place Monday, Jan. 25; Tuesday, Jan. 26; Thursday, Jan. 28; and Friday, Jan. 29.
Beginning Feb. 1 and extending through the end of the year, elementary students will attend in-person school Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesdays will be a remote day for students, and allow for deep cleaning and help with any needed contact tracing.
Five-day-a-week in-person classes would resume should La Plata County achieve the Blue Level on the state’s COVID-19 dial framework.
Middle schoolsMiddle schools will resume in-person learning for students Monday, Feb. 1, and will operate on a four-day-a-week schedule – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Wednesdays also will be a remote day for students, and allow for deep cleaning and a concentration on contact-tracing assistance.
Five-day-a-week in-person classes will resume when the Blue Level status is achieved in the county.
Durango High SchoolDHS will resume half-day, in-person instruction for four days a week beginning Monday, Feb. 1. Half-day in-person learning will be held Monday, Feb. 1; Tuesday, Feb. 2; Thursday, Feb. 4 and Friday, Feb. 5.
Extended full-day classes will be offered for students with learning challenges or who require additional supports.
Wednesdays will be a remote day to allow for deep cleaning and a concentration on contact tracing.
Five-day-a-week in-person classes will resume when the county achieves the state’s Blue Level on the COVID-19 dial framework.
Big Picture HighBig Picture will resume its regular three-day-a-week in-person schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and will be in school Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with internships taking place Tuesdays and Thursdays.