Garfield Re-2 announces safety details for in-person learning
With the return to school just over 10 days away district hammers out details and protocols
Garfield School District Re-2 officials spent a majority of a more-than four-hour-long school board meeting Monday in Rifle going over the plans for the return to school Aug. 24, in the district that covers Rifle, Silt and New Castle.
On July 20, the board approved the recommendation to return to in-person classroom learning this fall. District staff has been working to survey staff and parents while preparing a plan to make the return as safe as possible as Garfield County remains in the red on COVID-19 cases.
“Our vision is to encourage, nurture and challenge every student, every day. That has been our vision statement for many years here in the district,” Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Director Julie Knowles said. “We want to minimize our disruption to learning, and that has to be balanced on the other side with student and staff safety.”
With 82% of the parents surveyed last month wishing to return to school, principals and supervisors have been polling certified staff on how comfortable they are on a return to the classroom.
“We were able to contact 94.7% of our certified teaching staff. The data showed that 83.7% overall as a district wanted to come back to in-person teaching … 16.3% wanted to do online,” Knowles said.
Staff was also asked on a scale of 1 to 4 what their comfort level on returning back to school, with nearly 72% of the staff rating themselves as either extremely comfortable or comfortable, she said.
As the start of school approaches, Knowles and Superintendent Heather Grumley are urging parents to register their students if they haven’t had an opportunity yet so the district knows what they would like in the way of online or in-person options.
With staff reporting to campus earlier this week, Grumley said that she has been working every single day transitioning as guidelines change, meeting with administrates as they prepare to open their buildings and get their staff ready for those students that choose to come back to in-person learning.
“What is our human capital capacity at this point with the full-time teaching positions we have; what gaps still exist with families we don’t know, and cannot calculate; and what are our online numbers and how are we going to service the needs of those kids,” Grumley said of the questions being addressed.
The district plans to take temperatures and ask standard questions in screening for all students each day when they arrive at their respective school. Social distancing, wearing mask and cohorting will be used to help combat the possible spread of the coronavirus.
According to the CDC, cohorting forms groups of students, and sometimes teachers or staff, who stay together throughout the school day to minimize exposure for students, teachers and staff across the school environment.
“When we talk about Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Public Health safety guidance, one of the things they talk a lot about is that cohorting is one of the most important strategies to provide safe instruction for students,” Re-2 Director of Communications Theresa Hamilton said.
Other restrictions and protocols include:
• No visitors, volunteers or outside entities will be allowed into the schools until the end of the first quarter.
• All students K-12 will be required to wear masks unless they cannot medically tolerate it.
• Students and staff will wash hands as frequently as possible for at least 20 seconds, and rooms will be cleaned and disinfected daily. Drinking fountains will be closed; the district is working on an alternative.
According to the district’s reopening plan, if a student oe teacher tests positive for COVID-19 they will stay home until released from isolation. Any class or cohort members that came in close contact will be asked to stay home for a 14-day quarantine period.
The district will follow CDPHE guidance when it comes to closing, which includes an outbreak of five or more in a classroom or 5% or more unrelated students, teachers or staff within 14 days.
Students under quarantine will move immediately to distance learning. And the district will have an option of moving to a hybrid model if the situation warrants.
Transportation will also use social distancing and more routes as resources allow, and students will eat lunch in their classrooms, unless other spaces are available.
“We are really listening to our teachers, community, and we’re listening to public health. Again, public health says we are in safer at home, and we should follow the safer at home guidance,” Knowles said. “The guidance from CDE and CDPHE is really clear: Layers of protection applied collectively will provide stronger protection than isolation.”
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It has been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed all our lives dramatically. The social restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic have left most of us feeling exhausted and stressed…