by Dr. Darrin Peppard
West Grand Superintendent
At the West Grand School District’s monthly board meeting this past Tuesday, district leadership and members of the board agreed to return to school on January 4 with face-to-face instruction for all grade levels. The District will continue in-person instruction with grades K-5 and remote learning with grades 6-12 through the end of next week.
During the past month, as cases have risen, the number of teachers and other adults in the district who were forced into quarantine was quite high. This, coupled with a very limited number of substitute teachers, led to the district having to be in the remote environment.
When a new level of the COVID-19 dial was released by the Governor’s office, it included more guidance for PK-12 at all levels. As a collective group, the superintendents and principals in Colorado sent a letter to the governor requesting leniency and improvement with quarantine guidelines, duration, and how contact tracing was being conducted. We were pleasantly surprised with changes to all areas in which we had requested support.
Previously, any person who was in the room with someone who tested positive, or was presumed positive for COVID-19 was required to be placed in quarantine. Under the new guidance, if certain requirements are met in the room, only those who were within 6 feet of the positive person for more than 15 minutes now must quarantine. As well, if teachers wear high grade masks and eye protection, they may well be exempted from quarantine. This alone will help in keeping the schools open.
Finally, the duration of quarantine can now be reduced for those who have no symptoms. Under that guidance, anyone who has no symptoms for 10 days (if they don’t test) can return on day 11. Likewise, if someone has no symptoms and tests negative on day 6, they can return on day 8. Not ideal, but far better than a mandatory 14 days in quarantine.
With this guidance, some quarantine issues will still occur because we will still have some positive cases. However, we believe that this will go a long way toward keeping schools open and stopping the yoyo effect we’ve all been experiencing. We are very grateful for the work Grand County Public Health has done during this super challenging time to get answers for us, provide opportunities to problem solve so our students could be in our schools for small groups, open gyms, and other important things. CHSAA did release information that, unfortunately, we won’t be able to start practices for season B (basketball & wrestling) officially until January 25.
Over the past 9 months we have learned more about COVID, quarantine, and viral spread than any of us ever wished to learn. I know for me, I’m beyond tired of COVID discussions but we aren’t quite out of the woods. We need to keep working together to keep our schools open and our kids in classrooms. We are very excited to turn the page to 2021, get all our students back in person, and get back to the business of teaching and learning.
In other news, I would like to give a huge shout out to the West Grand FFA students, their teacher Jacob Walter, and to Dave Heil, Wes Howell, Shannon Barsy , and Emmylou Harmon. Our greenhouse was damaged in a wind storm and we had struggled to find anyone
to come and repair it. Mr. Walter’s students submitted a bid to repair the damage and get the greenhouse back in shape. This week, their plan came together and they were able to get the greenhouse repaired. We really appreciate their leadership and engagement with the school. If you are by the high school, swing by and take a peek!