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Task force aims to get Colorado students back in classrooms by January

The task force aims to ensure that as many students as possible will be able to safely return to classrooms in January.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis announced the formation of a task force Wednesday aimed to help K-12 schools statewide return to in-person learning in January.

The back-to school task force consists of stakeholders including teachers, other school staff, superintendents, elected school boards, charter school leaders, health officials and parents, according to governor's office. 

The group held its first meeting on Wednesday, where they reviewed current protocols and best practices within schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Polis described the meeting as productive and said the group is expected to meet weekly to further address the challenges of returning to in-person learning for the spring semester.

“We know for many kids, and frankly also for many teachers, the classroom is one of the safest places,” Polis said. “We want to make sure that we do all we can do in that controlled environment to really make sure that we don’t have an additional semester as chaotic as this one is.”

>Video below: Polis, task force members discuss initial plans for how students could return to in-person learning in January. 

Polis said schools are a safe and regulated environment, and he has pledged support and funding to districts and school boards.

“Every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and we cannot let our students’ education become a casualty of this pandemic,” Polis said. “This challenging time has strained our educators, parents, school staff and students. That’s why I’ve formed this working group to help us successfully reopen our schools for in-person learning during the pandemic— I believe that together, we can build upon and develop innovative strategies that assist us in safely reopening schools for all our students.”

One topic the group discussed Wednesday was extra layers of protective measures and how to successfully implement them within different school environments. Ways to address staffing shortages and the increased need for substitutes during the pandemic were also discussed. 

“We would love to provide more predictability to teachers, parents, families, as well as make sure that kids get the education they need across our state," Polis said. 

The task force will also work to provide feedback to Polis, Commissioner Katy Anthes, and key public health leaders about ways to ensure as many students as possible can safely return to classrooms in January.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on Tuesday released updated guidance of the decision-support tools for educators to help them in determining who needs to quarantine after an exposure to the virus in the classroom or school setting.  

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