by Marissa Lorenz
As fall and the traditional start to school draws nearer, Grand County schools are working tirelessly with state and local public health experts to prepare to welcome students back with safety and enthusiasm.
West Grand School District Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard assures students, families, and staff that “West Grand intends to be in-person, face-to-face learning, beginning on August 24.”
“Our commitment continues to be supporting our community and working for the best interests of our students and staffulty,” he states.
“We will follow the guidance of the state and local health experts and ask our community to help us, be understanding, and know we all need to work together so we have the best chance of keeping our schools open face to face throughout the school year.”
The August 24 date came from a recent Board-approved calendar change, pushing back the student re-entry date to allow teachers extra time to prepare their classrooms and for necessary training.
Peppard clarifies that face-to-face instruction will be “for every student,” Monday through Thursday, and that there is no current plan needed for alternating days or weeks to accommodate cohorts.
Safety is a priority
Safety is of primary concern, however, and face masks/coverings will be required when social distancing cannot be achieved–such as in common areas, lunch rooms, buses, and some classroom situations–including for students under the age of 10. The district will provide one reusable face mask to every student and will have extras on hand.
Parents will be asked to perform symptom checks daily and report through Parent Square, with the district doing temperature checks at entry. This change is in response to most recent CDC and CDE guidelines.
Other safety measures will include frequent use of hand sanitizer and hand washing for all age levels; lunch will be provided as always, with staff considering using the lunchroom, classrooms, and outdoors as possible lunching areas. Transportation will still be provided, with out-of-town routes running first, in-town routes second.
The Superintendent notes that recess and outdoor time will be encouraged; masks will not be required while students are outside.
If a positive test occurs with a student or staffulty member, that cohort will need to be quarantined for approximately two weeks. Learning for that cohort will transition to online, but with the same expectations for in-classroom learning.
“HIPPA rules will be respected and utilized,” explains Dr. Darcy Selenke, Grand County Public Health Medical Director. In the case of a positive test, she notes, those who have been in contact with the person will be informed that they have been identified as at-risk for exposure and asked to quarantine.
She emphasizes that the health care community is working hard to ensure that there are no unnecessary challenges to students who may need testing, such as lack of insurance or funds. “We do not want there to be any barriers students getting the testing they need.”
District to provide supported online learning
To address additional concerns, West Grand has developed their own virtual school platform, using Colorado Digital Learning Solutions, a nonprofit agency contracted with the state to “provide supplemental coursework for Colorado students.” “This option will allow parents to keep their students at home, if they choose, without needing to transfer to an out-of-district program,” explains Peppard.
“Masks will be a condition to enter school buildings,” Selenke adds. “Masks are about the safety, health, and well-being of our community. They are not political. The online option means that every child will have access to education, even if they don’t want to wear a mask.”
The option is different from what was offered in the spring, with support and development in partnership with online learning expertise.
The district has purchased additional Chromebooks, allowing for true 1-to-1 access for grades
3 through 12. Every student in grades 3 through 12 will have their own device, meaning no device sharing and no device checkout
if quarantining or other measures are needed at any point in time. Students will be expected to provide their own headphones.
Extracurriculars still restricted
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) announced a strongly modified
plan for fall athletics and other extracurricular activities on Tuesday.
The new schedule has four sports seasons and all contact sports, such as fall football, have been moved
to a later season for the 2020-2021 school year. Each season will run for about seven weeks, resulting
in limited competition schedules and shortened post-seasons.
West Grand High School will have a cross country season this fall, with practice beginning on August 12. The middle school will work out their schedule but mostly follow CHSSA procedures.
“As a district we continue to focus on, in partnership with County Public Health, response to students with symptoms, procedures with the medical professionals, and timelines for reentry for symptomatic individuals,” indicates Superintendent Peppard. “As well, we are in the process of registration (begins Thursday) and working through student placement both face-to-face and in the online CDLS program. We are working on scheduling a community meeting with CDLS, giving parents an opportunity to ask questions about processes with online learning.”
For more information on CDLS, go to ColoradoDLS.org. For complete details and calendars for sports and activities, go to CHSAAnow. com. And for more about West Grand schools, the online learning option, or other questions, contact the District Office at 970-724-3217.
by Marissa Lorenz