DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo — The Douglas County School District (DCSD) has decided to delay the first day of school for the 2020-21 school year by one week.
The first day of school will now be on Monday, Aug. 17, according to a letter sent home to parents Tuesday night. Students were originally supposed to go back on Aug. 10.
Starting on Aug. 17, students will be returning for full-time, in-person learning, the letter says. There will also be an eLearning option that families can choose if they prefer. The district will not offer a hybrid option.
The district said they've been working with the newly-created DCSD Restart & Recovery Task Force to come up with a plan to welcome students back in a way that is “as close to normal as possible” while taking necessary precautionary measures to keep students safe.
During a meeting Monday night, the board decided not to vote on the final plan, saying they needed more reassurance and information from Superintendent Thomas Tucker so that people would be comfortable going back in person.
Right now the plans include:
- A mask requirement for middle school students and higher, as well as all staff members. It recommends masks for kids in elementary schools.
- Contingency plans in case state or health guidelines don't allow for schools to open.
- Staff and students would be required to complete a daily symptom check, preferably at home before arriving at work or school.
- At all times, the district said six feet of social distancing between all individuals would be encouraged.
- The eLearning will include “live” video instruction, grading and attendance.
- In a situation where students at a school would need to transition to eLearning due to an outbreak of the virus, teachers would be prepared with tools and training to ensure a seamless transition, according to the plan.
Douglas County is also asking families to complete a survey about whether they prefer in-person or eLearning and whether or not they will need transportation "to assist us in planning and staffing for the upcoming school year."
"It is scary, and it's such a hard decision because I don't know what's worse," Tiffany Grizzle said.
Grizzle has three kids in school at every level from high school to middle school to elementary school. She said she is not sure what's worse, going back to remote learning full-time or sending her kids back to the buildings with a possible risk of COVID-19 exposure.
"I feel like for them right now, the best thing for them to do is go to school taking every precaution they can take," Grizzle said.
But, precautions are exactly what Kallie Leyba said she is worried about. Leyba is president of the Douglas County Federation, the teachers union that Leyba said represents about 50% of all teachers in Douglas County.
"While we still have lower cases, our trajectory is not going in the correct direction," Leyba said. "We also need mandatory masks for everyone."
Leyba also pointed out the plan made available to the public is missing one key aspect.
"There is no information in that plan about what we’re going to do if and when a student or adult in the building tests positive," Leyba said.
Grizzle said she hopes a good plan can be finalized that keeps everyone safe.
"It’s always scary to send them to a situation that could be technically dangerous," Grizzle said.
The board will meet again to discuss the plan on July 25.
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