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Parents protest DPS decision to return to remote learning

Amid rising COVID-19 trends, students in third grade or above will return to remote learning on Monday, the district announced this week.

DENVER — Parents on Friday are set to gather on Lincoln Street to protest Denver Public Schools' decision to return to remote learning.

On Monday, DPS students in grades 3-5 will shift back to remote learning after just returning to in-person learning.

"COVID is here," said Dana Knowles, a mom of three DPS students. "It’s not going anywhere. We don’t know when there’s going to be a vaccine. So, we can’t necessarily just sit around and wait."

All students in the state's largest school district started the new school year remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The youngest students began phasing into classrooms with the final elementary school-aged students returning the week of Oct. 19.

Now, with key data metrics related to the COVID-19 rising, DPS announced its decision Tuesday to shift back to remote learning for those in grades 3-5 through at least Thanksgiving, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.

"It’s really frustrating. We’re kind of like, 'What’s the difference? What are they doing that you can’t seem to figure out?'" Knowles said, making a reference to other area school districts and private schools that are currently making in-person learning work.

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"If you look at all these other surrounding districts, we have more of at-risk students than almost any of the bigger school districts," she said. "I almost feel as if DPS needs to work even harder to meet the needs of those students. They should be trying harder. Those students need more help than anybody else and yet they’re left with nothing."

Tiffany Choi, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers' Association (DCTA), said Friday that she understands the frustration, but supports the latest decision from the district.

"Our students that need school the most also happen to be the students’ families that are impacted the most by the virus," she said. "Right now, the safety is not there. We don’t have safe conditions, and so it is dangerous for us to be continuing in the same direction with in-person."

She also said while schools can put safety measures and protocols in place, there's a lot they can't control, and with rising trends related to COVID-19, difficult decisions need to be made.

"You can't control what students are doing outside the classroom," she said. "You can't control what families are having to do. You can't control if they’re essential workers and required to be working in situations where they might be exposed. You don’t know if the students are experiencing the symptoms if the parents are able to give them medicine so the symptoms are not there anymore."

All students in grades 6-12 will remain in remote learning through the end of the year, according to DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova.

"The health conditions for older students are unlikely to improve enough before the end of the semester to allow for safe in-person schooling without the risk of frequent disruptions from quarantining," Cordova said Tuesday.

That was the same day that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the city was shifting from Safer At Home: Level 2 to the more restrictive Safer At Home: Level 3 as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

"Unfortunately we're in a very difficult part of the pandemic," said Choi.
"I do think at the heart of everything we all want the same thing right? We all want our students to be educated. We want them to be safe, we want them to have equitable access."

"So, we’re not asking for the moon," said Knowles. "We’re not asking for something that hasn’t already been done countless times. We’re asking for something lots of other districts are doing. Let’s get together and make it happen so that our kids have the choice to go back to school."

RELATED: Denver moves to more restrictive COVID-19 phase

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