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Westminster Public Schools offering 12 extra school days to make up for COVID

Due to learning difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Westminster schools is adding extra, optional school days.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Westminster Public Schools (WPS) announced Thursday it is offering students 12 extra school days to make up for learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school year was originally scheduled to end Tuesday, May 25, and the extra days would extend that to Friday, June 11.

Schools will still be closed on Monday, May 31 in observance of Memorial Day.

Students are not required to attend, but WPS Superintendent Dr. Pamela Swanson said she strongly encourages parents to take advantage of the opportunity.

RELATED: Here's when school districts plan to return to in-person learning

“The beauty of our Competency Based System is that every student can take full advantage of this additional time," Swanson said in a recent letter to the community. "A student who is behind his/her peers can catch up, while a high-achieving student can continue to push themselves to the next level.”

"Due to the disruption of the pandemic, we know that students have lost learning opportunities this school year," said Dr. Oliver Grenham, WPS Chief Education Officer. "And in our system, we know exactly where they are academically. And they are not in the same place they would be in a typical year."

Teachers and principals will be reaching out to parents in the coming weeks to get a firm count of the number of students participating, and WPS said new federal COVID funding will pay staff for the additional days.

"We highly recommend our students attend this," Grenham said. "We've got conferences going on this month, actually, and parents will get updated status of where students are,  directly from their teachers. I think that will help make a decision for parents who might’ve been on the fence about this."

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for all students as normal.

RELATED: CDC releases long-awaited guidance on reopening schools

WPS said a record number of parents and guardians responded to a recent survey, with about two-thirds saying they supported the proposal.

However, WPS said that some parents responded that their children need a break.

Toni Ybarra's 10-year-old son Jackson attends WPS school Colorado Sports Leadership Academy. Ybarra said her son has autism, and she was grateful that, for most of the school year, her son was able to attend in-person learning.

However, like most districts, WPS dealt with COVID-19 interruptions that led to some remote-learning time, too.

"That was hard for us," Ybarra said. "Adjusting, being in school from 8 to 3, [then] to being online. He gets migraines, so being on that computer it was hard."

Ybarra said she is eager to use the extra 12 days to give her son more academic and social time, after losing both during the pandemic.

"I'm hoping it just helps him to still be able to be on track for next year, we go to middle school next year," she said. "We haven't been able to play with our friends, and that’s been the hardest thing for a child like Jackson who is on the spectrum. They need that interaction so they can learn how to cope. And I'm just hoping that will give him some extra skills to work on through next year."

Before the survey was sent to parents, WPS said employees were asked if they preferred extending this school year, or beginning next school year earlier. The staff had a strong preference for extending the current school year.

WPS said a virtual meeting will be held on Monday, March 15 from 6 to 7 p.m. for the entire community, and a link will be provided in the near future.

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