It has been incredibly rewarding to see students back in our schools for in-person learning over the past few weeks. I have had the pleasure of visiting several schools and talking with students, teachers, parents and leaders about the transition back to in-person learning. I want to thank all of you for supporting this transition and doing your part to keep our students, staff and community safe.
On January 4, we announced our plan to return to in-person learning and committed to providing you an update on our next steps in early February. While we know that we have to maintain vigilance against COVID-19, many have voiced strong support for increasing in-person learning opportunities. As we have shared repeatedly, we have strong operational and mitigation plans in place and current health data does not negatively impact our ability to implement in-person learning models.
I want to share some of the main points that the APS Leadership Team considered while making its decision about our next transition:
- COVID-19 cases are decreasing in both Arapahoe and Adams counties.
- Overall, Colorado is doing better than many other states in metrics including decreasing transmission, higher levels of testing and vaccination. Under the state’s COVID-19 dial, we are currently in level yellow. In level yellow, in-person learning is suggested for all P-12 schools.
- Our mitigation strategies are strong and schools are reporting that both students and staff are more familiar and comfortable with the health protocols.
- We have closely monitored cases, transmission and protocols of the many other school districts that have had fully in-person learning. We are confident that in-person learning is safe when protocols and mitigation strategies are in place.
- Educators have been prioritized as part of Phase 1B.2 in Colorado’s vaccination timeline.
- Recent survey results showed that most stakeholders favor fully in-person learning compared to the current Hybrid “A and B Week” Model:
- 67% in agreement / 21% disagreement (12% neutral) for student wellbeing
- 68% in agreement / 23% disagreement (10% neutral) for student learning
- Stakeholders were evenly divided about whether they would rather have multiple transitions and gradually increase in-person learning or one transition without a gradual increase in frequency.
- We also held district listening sessions and consulted school leaders to get insight into our current learning environments and to understand how to strengthen supports for in-person learning opportunities.
- Student attendance rates and trends
With all of this in mind, I am pleased to share what our current plans are for the remainder of this school year by level. Our overarching goal is to increase the frequency of in-person learning and move to a place where every student may attend every day. In keeping with public health guidance, the model for attendance will vary by grade level. Please keep in mind that these plans may change depending on circumstances and additional planning.
Preschool students will continue to attend school every week Monday through Thursday for the remainder of this school year.
Beginning on February 16 through the end of the school year, all students in grades Kindergarten through 5 will attend school every week Monday through Thursday. Fridays will remain asynchronous and students will learn remotely from home at least through Spring Break.
Middle School (6-8th Grade)
Beginning on February 16 through Spring Break, all students in grades 6-8 will attend school every week in an AA/BB model. This means that “A” group middle school students will attend school for full days on Mondays and Tuesdays. “B” group students will attend school for full days on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will remain asynchronous and students will learn remotely from home. This will apply to all students in grades 6-8 whether they attend a traditional middle school or a P-8 school
After Spring Break through the end of the school year, we plan to transition to every 6-8th grade student attending school every week Monday through Thursday.
High School (9-12th grade)
Beginning on February 16 through Spring Break, all high school students will attend school every week in an AA/BB model. This means that “A” group high school students will attend school in person for half days in the morning on Mondays and Tuesdays. “B” group students will attend school for half days in the morning on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Both groups of students will continue to learn remotely from home in the afternoon. Fridays will remain asynchronous and students will learn remotely from home.
After Spring Break through the end of the school year, we intend to have every high school student attend school in person every week Monday through Thursday for half days. High schools students will learn remotely from home the other half of the day. This will likely mean that one group of students will attend school in person in the morning and learn remotely from home in the afternoon, while the other group will learn remotely from home in the morning and attend school in person in the afternoon.
Pickens Technical College
Classes at Pickens Technical College will continue as scheduled. Students will continue to attend classes in person as scheduled. There are no anticipated changes at this time.
Fridays (All Grades)
At present, we have not made a decision about asynchronous (students learn on their own time) Fridays after Spring Break. Fridays have been an important part of our strategy to plan for instructional supports for fully remote students. We are, however, concerned about lower student attendance and engagement on Fridays. Over the next several weeks, we will explore options to increase student engagement on Fridays and make a decision to be announced prior to Spring Break.
In the meantime, we would like to emphasize how important it is for every APS student to engage in learning on asynchronous Fridays. If your student is struggling with attendance and/or directions on what to do on Fridays, please contact your child’s school to ask for additional information.
Switching Learning Modes
For the remainder of the year, APS will continue to provide families the option to remain fully remote. Families can choose to switch to fully remote learning at home at any time throughout the rest of this school year.
If your child is currently in fully remote learning at home and you would like to switch your child to in-person learning at school, your child may do so after Spring Break. The deadline to notify your child’s school that you intend to switch to in-person learning after Spring Break for the final quarter is Friday, March 5. This will provide schools with enough time to plan and make any necessary staffing shifts for after Spring Break.
Reminders about Keeping Students Safe
While students are at school, we will keep the same group of peers and staff members together for the entire day as much as possible. If any students are showing symptoms, they will be isolated from others immediately and we will ask their parents/guardians to pick them up from school as quickly as possible. We ask all parents and guardians to please keep their emergency contact information updated through Parent Portal. Also, please have a plan for picking up your students from school if school staff contact you.
If your child has been potentially exposed to an individual who has tested positive or is showing symptoms of COVID-19, you will be notified and provided quarantine guidance. Please know that all APS school nurses and administrators have received training and continue to receive updated information and guidance.
The health and safety of our students, staff and families is our top priority. Please partner with us by adhering to the following practices:
- All students must wear face masks while on the bus and at school. Please continue to practice mask wearing with your children at home.
- Keep your children home if they are sick. Check for symptoms every day by completing self assessments and always check your child’s temperature. If your child has a temperature of 100.0 F or higher, keep your child at home. Additional symptoms to look out for are a cough, sore throat, tiredness, nausea, loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath.
- If someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, please keep your student at home to engage in remote learning for the quarantine period determined by your medical provider.
- Reinforce and teach frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Make sure to provide your school with a current telephone number where you can be reached.
- Ensure that someone is available to pick up your children within an hour if they are showing symptoms.
- Report your child’s absence each day to the school including the reason for the absence and, if sick, please report illness symptoms on the attendance line.
- Also, please remind your children about social distancing. This means keeping several feet between themselves and others. Current public health guidance recommends 3 feet of distance in our controlled school settings. I know some children may want to hug or high five others. Instead, please show your children how to give a friendly wave or thumbs up from a distance instead.
Once again, thank you for your continued support and partnership as we provide more in-person learning opportunities for our students. We will continue to communicate as quickly as possible if we need to make a transition.
- Superintendent Rico Munn