Change to remain in effect for remainder of fall semester
Dear Five Star Community,
You've likely seen local media reports indicating Colorado is in the midst of its most significant surge in coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic. The surge has hit Adams County, and the Five Star District, especially hard. We've seen COVID incidence rates increase by nearly 900 percent from their level in mid-September. We've now had more than 200 staff and students who have tested positive for COVID, resulting in quarantines of more than 3,300 students and 600 staff members.
The past 10 days have been particularly difficult. During that time we've had frequent, large-scale quarantines throughout many of our school sites that remain open for in-person learning. We've had to transition seven elementary schools to two week remote schedules with little notice due to quarantines that removed 30 percent or more of their staff members from the building. Four of those schools transitioned abruptly to remote learning from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening alone.
I've closely monitored our local public health databases since July and have been in almost daily contact with officials from Tri-County Public Health and Broomfield Public Health to assess current conditions and predictions about future virus trends in our community. The data show unrelenting increases in COVID cases for the past 50+ days, and none of the public health officials forecast a significant reduction in those rates in the weeks ahead. Given these trends and predictions, future quarantine activity is likely to grow worse and send more and more of our schools into remote programming on short notice. And while our data show that transmission of COVID to other students and staff members who have been exposed to a positive case occurs in a small percentage of cases, the growth in positive cases increases the risks that we'll have incidents of transmission that would result in serious illness.
Simply put, we've now reached the point at which the benefits of in-person learning for our youngest students are outweighed by the disruption caused by abrupt transitions to quarantines and by the risk of COVID exposures within our schools. I've consulted with the individual members of our Board of Education and they concur in that assessment. Accordingly, we will take the following steps:
1. All preschools, elementary schools and in-person classes at Bollman and Washington Square will conclude their in-person services for the fall semester at the close of the school day on Friday, Nov. 13.
2. Friday, Nov. 13 will also be the last day of operation for our BASE program in elementary schools through winter break.
3. On Monday, Nov. 16, all of the students who are transitioning from in-person learning to remote learning will have an online class meeting or check in with their instructor to receive direction for asynchronous learning assignments for that day and to prepare for synchronous (live, teacher-led) learning beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 17. Elementary schools will communicate details about their synchronous learning schedule, which will include a common lunch period for all grade levels, later this week. Building principals are taking time to share this news with in-person learners today.
Preschool families will receive details about their remote learning model later this week.
Elementary schools that have already transitioned to remote learning (Hunters Glen, Silver Creek, Stellar, Rocky Mountain, Malley, Mountain View and Westview) will send their families additional information regarding next week’s schedule prior to the end of the day Friday. This communication may also include any plans to have some brief contact between students/staff either prior to, or promptly after, the Thanksgiving break. These opportunities would be designed to maintain staff/student bonds and to allow students to pick up needed items.
If other elementary schools are significantly impacted by positive COVID cases and quarantines between now and this Friday, influencing our ability to safely and effectively operate a school, we will consider the need to transition those schools earlier.
4. Instruction following the Thanksgiving Break will continue remotely through the conclusion of the fall semester for students on Dec. 17.
5. All support for students with special needs, advanced academic needs, and for English learners will transition to remote learning.
Current middle and high school in-person support for these students will be re-evaluated Thanksgiving week and communication to families will be shared prior to Thanksgiving day about the possibility of restarting these limited in-person opportunities the week of Nov. 30.
Elementary in-person support for these students is currently under review and communication to families about the possibility of providing limited in-person opportunities will begin the week of November 30.
6. I will be updating the Board of Education at their Nov. 18 meeting regarding second semester schooling models. Given surges that have occurred following holidays earlier this year, it is possible that we will start second semester with remote instruction at all levels in order to avoid frequent, large scale quarantines. We will also be considering revised procedures at the elementary level and a new learning delivery model at the secondary level to maintain consistent learning environments.
7. Families will be asked for in person vs. remote schooling preferences for second semester following the Nov. 18 Board of Education meeting. We'll need families to make final choices by the conclusion of the Thanksgiving Break so we can work through the logistics of schedule changes and staff assignments.
I realize this news is the latest in a long string of disappointments in 2020. My hope is that we'll all set aside our many frustrations on Wednesday to remember and honor our veterans for their service; that we'll transition our preschoolers and elementary students to remote learning on Friday afternoon with strong connections to staff and peers that will enhance their remote learning experiences; and that we'll make progress in reducing the spread of the virus in the weeks ahead so we can all have a fresh and positive beginning in 2021.