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Gov. Polis, school officials address decline in enrollment, urge parents to get kids in some type of learning

Education officials urged parents to enroll students in online learning if they don't feel comfortable with in-person learning.

DENVER — Two education officials and a child psychiatrist joined Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) in a news conference Tuesday afternoon to urge parents to get kids enrolled in school after seeing a sharp decline in enrollment. 

Polis stressed the importance of students being engaged in school every day while acknowledging the challenge of education during the pandemic for students, parents and teachers.

Some families are not ready to send kids back to in-person learning, Polis said, and while many families are choosing online learning, some families are opting out of school altogether for a variety of reasons.  

"The importance of enrolling [kids] is critical because kids will go back at some point and we don't want students to have fallen behind," he added.

Commissioner of Education Dr. Katy Anthes echoed Polis, adding that students who are not enrolled at all are missing out on not only education but other resources including school meals and mental health services.

"We cannot let education become a casualty because of this pandemic," she said.

Polis did not have specific numbers for school enrollment decline but said officials are seeing the decline more in younger students and vulnerable populations including students learning English as a second language. 

Dr. Chris Rogers, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who works at the Medical Center of Aurora said school provides community, which is every bit as important as the curriculum. 

Rogers also said parents need to adjust expectations as we navigate education during the pandemic because the impact of trauma can affect energy, focus and learning ability. 

Colorado is an open-enrollment state, Polis said if parents are not happy with their child's current online learning program, they have several other programs to choose from.

>> School resources for families can be found here

During Tuesday's news conference, Polis also briefly shared these updates:

  • Colorado is seeing significant air quality impacts from fires in the state as well as California.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 and poor air quality can look similar, so testing for COVID is critical.
  • The state will consider guidance on Halloween including trick-or-treating.
  • Americore volunteers are helping families get students enrolled in schools.
  • $2 million is being used to help 200 families with stable housing during the pandemic.

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This education-focused news conference comes as some districts across the state weigh shifting from online to hybrid and in-person learning models during what has been a unique school year shared by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Numerous districts are using dashboards to track the spread of the coronavirus in their communities as they weigh a return to physical classrooms. 

During a previous news conference, Polis and Anthes said they were taking measures to bolster broadband access for students across the state to ensure a more equal playing field during online classes. 

RELATED: Jeffco Public Schools launches COVID-19 dashboard

RELATED: DPS: Hybrid learning to include minimum of 10 hours of face-to-face instruction

RELATED: 'Broadband access is really now an essential school supply': How the state plans to address the digital divide

Polis has been holding at least two news conferences per week recently, and has covered topics ranging from economic recovery in the Western Slope to the return of some fans to Denver Broncos games. 

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