Roaring Fork, Garfield Re-2 schools cancel classes for next week amid heightened COVID-19 concerns
Spring break for the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 Schools will be extended to include next week, in the ongoing effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Garfield County.
Public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt had already planned to take March 19-29 off for spring break.
The precautionary closure for the Roaring Fork district extends the break an extra three days, Monday through Wednesday next week.
Re-2 schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle will also now be on break starting Monday through March 29. Garfield District 16 in Parachute will have its regularly scheduled break next week, and will reevaluate whether to extend into the following week.
The decisions by downvalley school districts comes on the heels of the Aspen School District‘s decision earlier Friday to close school an extra week, as well.
The action supports the social distancing policy recently issued by Garfield County Public Health, and Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) athletics cancellations, Garfield Re-2 said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon.
In addition, St. Stephen Catholic School, Yampah Mountain High School and both state charter schools located within the Roaring Fork district — Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs and Ross Montessori School in Carbondale — are following suit.
RFSD Superintendent Rob Stein also said his decision was made in consultation with Garfield County Public Health.
“Closing our schools is a precaution against spreading COVID-19 in our communities,” Stein said in a letter sent to parents early Friday afternoon.
“This closure will give our custodial team additional time to deep clean our schools,” Stein said.
The district anticipates reopening schools on March 30. However, further school closure determinations will be made in consultation with public health authorities, Stein said.
“We will monitor this situation closely as it unfolds over the next two weeks and will communicate our plans,” he said.
During the extended closure, there will not be an expectation for student distance learning, though learning materials may be sent home with students to try to keep them engaged during the break, Stein added.
“We encourage all families to support their children in continuing with learning during the closure,” he said. “In the event that we close our schools beyond March 29, we will provide optional educational resources to support students.”
Stein added that the district will not need to make up the three days, and the Colorado Department of Education has indicated it will make an exception even for districts that would have to make up any lost days, if it’s related to COVID-19.
Charter school and St. Stephen officials said they typically follow any district closures, and will do so in this instance.
“We determined our best course of action with all of the uncertainty was to partner with Roaring Fork Schools,” Two Rivers Head of School Jamie Nims said. “The hope is to maximize efficiency and minimize confusion for families in the valley.”
St. Stephen Principal Glenda Oliver concurred, and said the school will determine if it will reopen on March 30.
“If we do not open on March 30, we will be providing our families with distance learning through the duration of this social distancing closure,” Oliver said.
Added Sonya Hemmen, head of school for Ross Montessori, “As a Colorado Charter Institute-authorized school, we follow the local district’s call and will follow suit. We have been very active, as has the RFSD, in preparing for this eventuality.”
Attendance down Friday
Numerous events were cancelled Thursday and the Colorado High School Activities Association made the decision to halt the state basketball tournaments and suspend spring sports. Stein said school attendance was down Friday, but not as high as during the peak flu season in January and February.
“We have been seeing that a lot of people who may be feeling concerned about contagions, or if their health is vulnerable, they are making that decision to stay home,” he said in a separate interview.
In addition to regular cleaning, the district has ordered supplies of cleaning products that are COVID-19 approved, and will be using those for the deep clean during spring break. In the meantime, classrooms and offices were provided with cleansers and rubber gloves for staff and teachers to wipe down surfaces between cleanings, he said.
Stein also acknowledged that any closure extensions beyond spring break will create an extra burden for families with students who rely on school meals.
“Many of our students rely on our school breakfast and lunch program for their nutritional needs,” he said in the parent letter.
If further closures are necessary, the district will provide more information on ways meals and other services for vulnerable student populations can still be provided, he said.
“Our goal is to reduce isolation, maintain connections to classmates and school, and maintain academic engagement during the school closure,” Stein said.
Garfield County School District 16’s spring break begins Monday, so the district will wait and see about closing later, according to a spokesman.
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