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'It is on all of us': DPS leaders say community compliance with health orders is key for in-person learning

Susana Cordova said Tuesday they need to see at the "very minimum" a flattening of COVID numbers to bring students back.

DENVER — Transmission of the novel coronavirus in schools may be less than expected which could allow for schools to remain open even when there is high transmission within the community, according to Denver Health Dr. Bill Burman.

"We developed this dashboard back in July, we chose metrics and thresholds at that time based on what other big city school districts were suggesting, what some sets of national guidelines had," said Burman. 

"I think what we've learned since then is that there is less risk of transmission than had been expected when the basics are followed.  And so we are rethinking, along with others, now with that additional knowledge, what should a dashboard look like? We're not trying to move the goalpost, we're trying to update guidelines based on developing knowledge."

The Denver Public School District (DPS) is not ready to make any changes to its current learning plan but said this additional information could be helpful when making future decisions.

"Our goal is to bring as many students back as soon as possible for in-person instruction," said DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova. "And we know that it's going to be critically important for everybody in our community to embrace the challenge of helping drive the COVID numbers him back down."

A day after parents protested the return to remote learning for some elementary school students, Cordova and Burman hosted a briefing about the district's plans and the presence of COVID-19 in the community.

Last week, Denver's mayor announced that the city and county were shifting back to Level 3 on the state's COVID-19 dial due to troubling trends in data in areas such as the positivity rate and hospitalizations.

RELATED: 'No easy answers': DPS scales back in-person learning amid rising COVID-19 trends

Not long after that announcement, DPS announced that students in grades three through five would shift back to remote learning after only about two weeks of in-person instruction.

The move upset some parents, who organized protests on Friday afternoon and Monday morning. They questioned why other districts are able to make in-person learning work. 

"We do need to see, at least at the very minimum, a flattening of what's happening with our COVID numbers in the community to be able to bring back our students," said Cordova. "It's not our concerns about people getting COVID in schools but our concerns about disruptions and interrupting learning in-person with frequent quarantines that guided this decision."

The president of the Denver teacher's union said she agreed with the move to shift to more remote learning and said current conditions just aren't safe. Cordova said Tuesday that while the union participates in conversations about whether there is in-person instruction she said the union did not sway their decision one way or the other.

RELATED: Parents protest DPS decision to return to remote learning

All DPS students started the school year remotely, but its youngest students were slowly phasing into classrooms.

Students who are in grade two or below will remain in school as of now. Remote learning will continue for grades three through five through Thanksgiving when the situation will be reevaluated.

Remote learning will continue through the end of the year for students in grades six through 12.

"I know everybody is getting tired," Cordova said. "We all pandemic fatigue but it really is on all of us if we want our schools to be able to operate, if we want to be able to focus on in-person instruction for our students, it really is on all of us to make sure that we are continuing to do our part to drive these numbers down."

RELATED: Denver sees 'egregious' public health order violations, issues warning

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