JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Jefferson County Public Schools will open with 100% remote learning for a two-week period beginning Aug. 24 through September 4, according to a note sent from the district Thursday afternoon.
On Sept. 8, the district plans to open elementary schools (PreK-5) with 100% in-person and 100% remote options for families. For secondary schools (grades 6-12), they plan on opening with a hybrid schedule providing alternating days (A/B groups) of in-person learning and a 100% remote option for families.
"Starting in remote for a two week period will allow staff to communicate expectations and go over procedures with students before we have an in-person experience," Dr. Jason Glass, superintendent, said.
Glass said will allow teachers to tweak protocols under the new plan which also offers rapid COVID-19 testing for staff, an improved ventilation system in buildings, and a mask requirement for all students of all ages.
"We'll also be able to bring in smaller groups of students to test some of the practices that we are proposing and we're not all doing that on the first day of school en masse," Glass said.
The opening of schools on Sept. 8 will be contingent on virus levels in the community.
Depending on how COVID-19 is spreading in the community, they will move between remote learning, in-person or hybrid learning, and fully in-person learning depending on public health levels as determined by Jefferson County Public Health.
They also said the decision was made following guidance released Monday from the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
On Monday, the Jefferson County Education Association expressed concerns and launched an effort called "Recall the Restart" to oppose the initial plans of full in-person learning from day one. Brooke Williams is the teachers union president and believes their efforts made a difference.
"I think it was a pretty big factor," Williams said. "I think getting our communities onboard and our educators involved."
The Jefferson County Education Association said it surveyed its members and found:
- 43% of teachers preferred a hybrid model of remote learning and some in-person learning
- 32% preferred full-time remote learning
- 18% preferred full-time, in-person learning
Glass agreed that the JCEA concerns were a factor along with new information about the spread of COVID-19 and the rising number of cases.
"We certainly want to listen to our employees and their concerns and be responsive to them," Glass said. "We’ve said all along that we were hearing and listening to the perspectives of our educators and staff, so I think the changes that you see today show that we are walking the talk."
Other districts have delayed the start of school and the Denver Public School District announced it would also start fully remote to allow more time to adapt to all the changes and safety precautions six days prior to the JeffCo announcement.
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