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'Make the commitment to our students': Community help needed to keep Denver schools open

Only the district's youngest students are learning in-person due to current trends related to the virus.

DENVER — The superintendent of Denver Public Schools (DPS) urged everyone to "do our part" so that children can return to in-person learning as key data metrics such as positivity rates and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continue to cause concern. 

"With the absence of a change in trends with the direction of COVID, it is going to be exceedingly challenging to get kids back in school; frankly, it's going to get hard to keep kids in school," Superintendent Susana Cordova said Wednesday morning.

She and Dr. Bill Burman of Denver Health spoke at 10 a.m., where they provided an overview of district updates and health conditions in the Denver area.

RELATED: Denver schools installing germ-killing lights on buses

Currently, only students in second grade and below or those with special needs are learning in-person. Cordova and Burman said they believe that can continue, but only if everyone commits to the DPS Five, which is a set of safety guidelines previously outlined by the district.

RELATED: DPS 5: District unveils top 5 safety protocols for students, staff

"We think it's safe for people to be, in the ways that they are, using the DPS Five,"  said Burman. "We think it's safe for people to be in schools. So [there are] concerning trends, but [it's] a great program by DPS to test, detect, to manage and to use the DPS Five to make schools a safe place for those learners who benefit the most."

Cordova said if a determination is made that in-person learning cannot continue, the district would work to make sure that plenty of advanced notice is given before a change is made.

All DPS students in third grade or above are learning remotely. The district has said previously that it would reevaluate conditions after Thanksgiving to determine if students in grades three through five could return to in-person learning. However, without a change in the current trend, Cordova said that's unlikely to happen. She said everyone in the community needs to understand that their actions matter.

"As a community, the most important thing we can do is make the commitment to our students that their opportunity to learn in person is more important than an adult's opportunity to hang out with friends and get together," Cordova said. "I just want to say how critical it is for everyone in Denver to believe in the power of community to turn the tide."

Older students will remain in remote learning through the end of the year, according to the district. Right now, Burman said Denver is seeing an average of 500 cases a day

"The only way we are going to be able to have our schools offer in-person instruction for students is if the entire community takes things seriously to help turn the tide of COVID," Cordova said.

With widespread community transmission of the virus and hospitalizations at an all-time high in the state, many school districts have shifted to remote learning.

RELATED: These school districts have shifted to remote learning

Numerous counties have also been moved to more restrictive levels on the state's COVID-19 dial and in some places, and curfews have been put in place as part of an effort to slow the spread of the virus. 

RELATED: Here are the Colorado counties that are moving to tighter COVID-19 restrictions

On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis extended the statewide mask mandate order for an additional 30 days and said Coloradans need to do more.

"We need the resolve to not let this virus win," he said.

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