Beginning next week, most Durango School District 9-R elementary school students will return to in-person learning at their schools each Monday and Tuesday, with remote learning still occurring Wednesdays to Fridays.
9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said work of a districtwide task force to develop a road map called the Return to In-Person Learning Plan allowed the district to quickly bring the youngest students back after the state moved La Plata County to Level Orange on its COVID-19 response dial framework.
“We certainly have some very angry parents who want their kids back full time, and we have some parents who feel like we’re coming back too soon,” Snowberger said. “There are a variety of views across the spectrum. But I think our task force did a great job with coming up with a plan for return to in-person learning.”
The Return to In Person Learning Plan was developed with a task force that included input from teachers, counselors, administrators, each school’s Instructional Leadership Team, school principals, the Durango Education Association and the Durango Education Support Professionals Association.
Responses from surveys sent to district families also helped shape the plan.
Snowberger said if a professional development day is scheduled on a Monday, in-person, in-school sessions for elementary students will be moved to Tuesday and Wednesday.
The two-day-a-week, in-person sessions will apply to elementary students who were in the full-time in-person learning model or the hybrid learning model with two days of in-person learning and three days of remote, at-home learning.
Under the Return to In-Person Learning Plan, elementary school students will move to four-day-a-week, in-person learning if La Plata County is able to reach the state’s Level Yellow. Wednesday would be a remote day for elementary students, and it would be used as a deep-cleaning day at elementary schools.
If the county is able to reach Level Yellow, middle school and high school students also would begin in-person learning at their schools four days a week, also with Wednesday used as a deep cleaning day.
On Thursday, 9-R plans to modify some details of its Return to Learning Plan based on recommendations released late last week by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the state Department of Education.
The district has obtained personal protective equipment for teachers to wear while leading in-person classes, and use of PPE should reduce the number of quarantines needed by staff members if there is a COVID-19 exposure, Snowberger said.
If quarantines are needed, the state also has adopted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for shortened quarantines. The shortened quarantines will mean a seven-day quarantine if someone tests negative for COVID-19 after an exposure and a 10-day quarantine period for everyone else. Those quarantines are down from a 14-day quarantine.
The new quarantine rules should help 9-R maintain proper staffing levels to keep the district from moving back to all-remote learning.
“I think our biggest goal, and this has been a prime goal of our task force since we started, we want this to be sustainable,” Snowberger said. “When we closed, we got a lot of criticism on how fast we had to do it. We don’t want to ever do that again. And so we want to open in a measured way, in a way we can make sure we have the resources in place so we won’t have to take steps to pull back.”