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JeffCo parents and students march for in-person learning option

After the district revised its restart plan, parents and students in the Jefferson County School District asked for more choice.

DENVER — With signs in hand and masks on their faces, JeffCo parents and students marched around the Education Center in Golden Thursday to ask for more in-person learning choices. 

"We were struck by the change in the restart plan that the administration announced and anxious about the fact that our choice for in-person learning was being removed," Leslie Reynolds, leader of the event, told 9NEWS. 

In early July, the Jefferson County School District (JCSD) released what it called the final version of its restart plan. 

Families of all JCSD students previously could decide between 100% in-person learning or 100% remote learning. 

Two weeks later, JeffCo updated that approach in a revised plan.

As things stand, every student will begin the school year in remote learning on Aug. 24.

On Sept. 8, families of elementary-age kids will choose between 100% in-person learning or 100% remote learning. 

Families of sixth through 12th grade students can choose between 100% remote learning or a hybrid model.

"I’m going to be kind of mad and sad about this hybrid thing where we have to do an A day and a B day," sixth grader Adam Larsen said. "I felt like we had a good plan released earlier this summer."

Keely Carter, who has two children in JCSD, told 9NEWS she was "heartbroken" to learn of the change "because now they’re in a position to stay remote as long as possible and that’s not what we want. I see the benefits of teaching in a classroom especially for the younger kids. They need that interaction. They need that socialization."

Reynolds, who is also a grandmother of seven, said she is hoping the march influences the decision of how best to educate JeffCo students amidst this pandemic. 

JCSD released the following statement in response to Thursday's march: 

"We appreciate the feedback of our very engaged Jeffco community and hear the concerns from all perspectives. We understand a significant number of Jeffco families would like the district to offer a 100% in-person learning option (in addition to a remote-only choice) for the start of school in August, as demonstrated by the group of parents who visited the Ed Center this morning and in the results of our family survey in June. On July 23 we announced our current plan for the start-of-school on August 24th and that plan remains in place. There is no one perfect solution. We continue to engage in daily conversations as the situation evolves, collaborate with our public health partners, and are working to ensure we offer safe return-to-school options while remaining flexible to adapt and committed to the health and safety of students and staff."

Here's how the Jefferson County Education Association responded to Thursday's demonstration: 

"JCEA leadership recognizes and supports the rights of all educators, parents, students, and community members to voice their opinions and concerns. We also recognize that emotions are high for everyone and that there is an extremely wide spectrum of opinions on when and how educators and students should return for the 2020-2021 school year. 

"We have heard specifically from parents on all sides of this discussion. Many have outreached us thanking our educators for their advocacy to prioritize health and safety. Others have expressed disagreement. 

"The reality is, school health and safety are inextricably connected to community health and safety. All decisions must prioritize health and safety, follow proven science to the best of our ability, and leave room for adjustment and change. 

"We ask that our educators, students, parents, and community members support us in doing what is needed now to help our students return to the buildings and in-person learning. Wear your masks, practice social distancing, follow local and state health department recommendations and help us reduce COVID-19 spread so we are in a position to return to the classroom in the safest possible way. 

"JCEA remains committed to doing the incredibly difficult work of designing a plan for a safe return. Our members desperately want to be back in school with their students; we have to finalize a plan that keeps students and staff as safe as possible while creating the best possible learning environment in the midst of this pandemic."

Organizers of Thursday's march said they plan to hold another demonstration next week to allow more families to participate. 

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