Leading up to Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to close schools from March 23 to April 17, Durango School District 9-R was under increasing pressure to extend its closure. But Superintendent Dan Snowberger insisted week-by-week assessments were the way to go.
“Making decisions about closures week by week, I think, is just a measured approach to make sure that we don’t overreact and close for a longer period of time than we need to,” Snowberger told The Durango Herald hours before Polis’ announcement. “We just don’t see a need to make a rash decision and close for an extended period of time.”
On Tuesday, Indivisible Durango sent a “Call for Action” email asking its members to contact Snowberger requesting at least a three-week suspension of 9-R schools to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deb Meyers, a member of Indivisible Durango, said the email went out to about 1,000 members of Indivisible Durango and a few nonmembers who are on its email list.
Mona Wood-Patterson, who wrote the Call to Action and worked as a teacher in 9-R for 27 years, said it was put together before 9-R extended its spring break by two days, from March 25 to March 27. She suggested Wednesday before Polis’ order that a closure for all state schools from the Colorado Department of Education would have been a more appropriate action to take.
“I’m not a medical expert or an epidemiologist. I’m just saying, let’s be strong. I just want to be a voice. We’re a small community, and we care,” Wood-Patterson said in a phone interview.
Closing for three weeks, Wood-Patterson said, gives teachers more time and assurance to commit to preparing at-home and online learning materials and lesson plans for their students.
“I urge him (Snowberger) to stay connected to what other school districts are doing, and to continue to listen to the community,” she said, before Polis’ announcement.
Wood-Patterson was also concerned for the safety of teachers’ during the two professional development days, on Monday and Tuesday, that will be focused on working to help teachers develop home learning and virtual learning plans for their classes. She said meeting in large groups could pose a threat to the spread of COVID-19 among 9-R’s teaching ranks.
It would have been helpful, Wood-Patterson said, if the Colorado Department of Education had ordered a statewide shutdown of schools that would have given teachers more concrete knowledge of the closures they would be facing and that would have aided their planning for virtual and at-home learning.
Julie Popp, 9-R spokeswoman, said online and teleconference meetings will be held during the professional development days for teachers attending remotely. In addition, she said groups will not exceed 10 people and recommended social-distancing practices would be used.
Snowberger said comments from parents and the public concerning school closures have ranged across the spectrum.
“We’ve had some who are very angry that we’re closing at all. We’ve had others who just can’t even imagine school is not being canceled the rest of the year and everything in between,” he said. “Everyone’s citing sources about why they believe their position is right, and we respect that everyone has a right to offer their input. I just take my responsibility to our children to be very serious, and I’m going to use the facts that I am being provided by the experts in our state and our community.”
Free meals for studentsTo prepare the right number of free, pickup meals, 9-R is creating a form on its website for families to fill out to inform the Nutritional Services Department how many meals are being requested for pickup.
“We will begin serving meals to any child from any age. I would say from age zero, but we’re not providing formula. So any child who can take part in a regular lunch or breakfast, those will begin being provided on Wednesday of next week at school sites as well as some remote, drop-off locations,” Snowberger said.
9-R’s food and nutrition staff members are now working to adjust meals to ensure they have the types of food that could be packaged to be sent home with children, Snowberger said.
Snowberger said the federal government has authorized school districts to serve all children in the area, including private-school, charter-school and home-schooled students – not only students at 9-R’s traditional schools.
Meal drop-off sites are planed:
For Animas Valley Elementary: Bus stops at 6000 County Road 203 and 2403 County Road 203, Regency Mobile Home Park and Hermosa Hills as well as a drive-thru site at Animas Elementary.For Park Elementary: Bus stops at Durango West 1 and Durango West 2 mailboxes, at Westside Mobile Home Park and a drive-thru site at Park Elementary.For Florida Mesa Elementary: Bus stops at Southwest Horizon mailboxes, Narrow Gauge Mobile Home Park and a drive-thru at Florida Mesa Elementary.For Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary: Bus stops at Pine Wind Mobile Home Park, Church Red Mesa and a drive-thru site at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary.For Needham Elementary: Bus stops at Junction Creek Mobile Home Park, Iron Horse Inn and a drive-thru at Needham Elementary.For Riverview Elementary: Bus stops at Mountain Sun and East Animas Village and a drive-thru at Riverview Elementary.For Sunnyside Elementary: Bus stops at Homestead Trailer Park, County Road 310 and U.S. Highway 550, County Road 213/High Flume, Merced De Las Animas Apartments, Lightner Creek Mobile Home Park and a drive-thru site at Sunnyside Elementary.[email protected]