Roaring Fork schools announce staggered return to in-class instruction for K-8 students later this month |

Roaring Fork schools announce staggered return to in-class instruction for K-8 students later this month

K-3 expected to return Oct. 19; grades 4-8 slated to return Oct. 26

Post Independent education news graphic

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are slated to return to in-class instruction later this month, a news release from Roaring Fork School District announced Friday.

“Risk levels have improved in Garfield and Eagle Counties to Safer Level 1 according to the state’s Covid-19 Dial Dashboard measure of the two week cumulative incidence rate,” the release states. “If this trend continues, the state dial is on track to reach Safer Level 1 next week.”

Kindergarten through third grade are slated to return Oct. 19 while grades four through eight are scheduled for an Oct. 26 return.

The announcement comes as the covid dial dropped to level 1, which triggered plans for a return to in-class instruction. But in addition to the covid dial’s level, the decision comes after district administration have learned “two important lessons,” the release states.

“First, the risks are much lower than previously feared if precautions are rigorously applied,” the release states. “Second, that the covid dial only provides a partial assessment of the actual risk level. Given this, we will take a more comprehensive approach in making decisions about returning to in-person learning.”

Superintendent Rob Stein in an interview Sunday said the district began to see how limited the covid dial was as more information — mostly from academic journals and scientific sources — became available.

“The final draft of the dial was overly simplistic,” he said. “The counsel I’m getting from medical experts is that the dial is overly simplistic.” The district will use it for monitoring, but it won’t be the “sole determinant” in maintaining and implementing in-person instruction.

To best determine risk mitigation and the steps necessary to keep students in the classroom as much as possible, Stein said the district has been helped by numerous medical professionals locally and statewide.

“Those who’ve been most helpful have been all three public health departments — Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle — and then a group of local physicians … and, of course, some contacts from the Front Range and (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) as well.”

Roaring Fork School District is also looking to create a more formal medical advisory board, and will provide more information on that as it progresses.

As to how the district has been receiving feedback and input from teachers, Stein said he has some direct conversations with instructors but also relies on the leadership and administration at each individual school.

“We have very frequent meetings with school leaders,” he said.

How to return high school students to the classroom is still a work in progress, which the district acknowledged in the release will likely disappoint some parents. Stein said it’s still too early for the district to commit to a concrete timeline. The fact of the matter is uncertainty has to be embraced during the pandemic, he said.

“Uncertainty should be a friend here,” Stein added. “If we push for certainty, all we are going to be doing is flip-flopping a lot. … Nothing is more precious than when we’re dealing with people’s children so I understand the frustration and concern.”

Roaring Fork schools public information officer Kelsy Been said she appreciated the patience and understanding provided by parents so far while the district works toward a return for as many students as possible.

“I think we all want the same things — what’s best for students and for everyone to be safe — and I just appreciate the continued patience and support and knowing that we’re all in this together,” she said. “We’re all wanting things to be better for our kids and for our teachers.”

Ahead of the return, students will be provided two days’ worth of course work while teachers use that time to prepare for their students to come back to class. Students will also retain the option of remote instruction.

Prior to returning, students will also learn about safety measures being implemented in schools such as:

  • Requiring masks for all children older than 3 in school, on buses and throughout the day;
  • Physical distancing and cohorting students into separate groups;
  • Enhanced cleaning measures;
  • Asking guardians to check students for symptoms at home every day before they go to school;
  • Symptom and temperature checks at schools every day;
  • And more — a complete list can be found here.

No visitors will be allowed in school upon students’ return and drop-off and pick-up protocols will also be implemented, the release states. Schools will provide free breakfast and lunch for students through Dec. 31.

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