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Garfield 16 prepares for return

School board recently approved districts plan to move start of school back one week to help prepare staff and buildings

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After an unexpected end to the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic Garfield County School District No. 16 hopes to make the return this fall as normal as possible for students in the 2020-21 school year.

District Superintendent Brad Ray said after surveying the community and finding a majority thought in-person learning is the best option, staff spent the summer working on a plan and structure to return to the classroom this fall.

“We’ve all said that learning in-person and in school is probably the best option for most, so we wanted to embrace that as much as possible,” Ray said. “We spent time over the summer sifting through all of the myriad of different changing guidelines, opinions, and suggestions.”

The district collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Garfield County Public Health, State Health Department, the Colorado Department of Education to find the best way to return to school and be as safe as possible.

To help with the return the original first day of school was pushed back from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 to give more time to the district to prepare.  

 “We felt like we were going to have to delay the start of school in order to get all of our faculty and staff up to speed and trained appropriately,” Ray said “Giving them some more time to get their classrooms ready and make sure that we had done the things to ensure safety that we possibly can and we felt like we needed some more days to do that.”

For parents and students not ready to return, there will be an option to continue remote in-home learning.

“People can still keep their kids home and we will still provide education for them,” Ray said. “That is ongoing as we collect the numbers right now of who wants to take advantage of that modality versus in-person.”

The district set a plan into place that will train the staff on CDC protocols of proper cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitization of buildings daily and classroom every two hours at a minimum. Each student will be screened before entering buildings, with students with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees or experiencing any symptoms to return home.

“We are committed to making it work, we have contingency plans in place when it doesn’t, and normal as possible is going to be a different definition to everybody. Our goal is to get back in-person normal as possible learning, and to accommodate folks that don’t feel comfortable with that,” Ray said. “We respect it and we will try to maintain it, try to keep it safe and if we see it spread then we will act accordingly.”

The district will be coordinating with public health to keep track of the statistics, demographics, and the changes within the guidelines.

“If we see it starting to spread and we have to close it we will, and then we will go online for a safe period of time, and then we will return in a hybrid model,” Ray said.

The district has a third option, the hybrid model that will include two days of in-person and two days of remote in-home learning.

Dedicated to return to school as normal as possible, Ray said that in-person learning and socialization is key in developing a good education, but they will also follow orders or mandates from the state.

“There are some things we rely on in our district, we have these four pillars of individual success. One of them is perseverance, we really need to think that the kids need to learn how to persevere through difficult times,” Ray said. “I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time, and I would say there are no instructions for how to handle what happened and what is currently going on. There is no playbook, you just rely on the tools you have and the people around you.”

For the full plan and details for Garfield 16 plan for reopening schools go to garfield16.org.

kmills@postindependent.com


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