Schools face tough choices this fall as health mandates limit classrooms to 10 people

jeffco public schools.jpg
Posted at 6:20 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 21:02:34-04

GOLDEN, Colo.— JeffCo Public Schools released a draft of a plan for bringing students back to school this fall.

When classes begin on August 18, students will be screened when they arrive on campus, practice six feet of social distancing and will be limited to group gatherings of less than 10.

Students will eat meals in the classroom as gyms and cafeterias will remain closed.

Parents who want their students to continue remote learning only will be allowed to do so. Grab and go meals will be provided for any student learning at home.

“We believe in-person learning and interactions are a vital part of student academic and social emotional well-being,” deputy superintendent Kristopher Schuh said.

The ultimate goal is to bring students back into the classroom at least once a week.

JeffCo is floating a hybrid model where a small number of students would attend in-person classes while the rest learn remotely.

“Teachers are recording video lectures and providing resources for students to review and then the time the student is present in the building, that is the time you get the shoulder support,” superintendent Jason Glass said.

The challenge for school districts is the ten person per classroom mandate. A typical classroom has 30 students, meaning about two-thirds of the students in any class would have to learn remotely.

“If someone gets through our screening procedures that student or staff member is only going to have contact with nine other people, so we have limited how much the virus can spread,” Glass said.

Jeffco Schools says they are hoping for more clarification on the ten person mandate and are hoping to have more flexibility.

Board member Brad Rupert felt the plan needed more focus on family stability because the workforce depends on it.

“It is not our core mission to occupy children five days a week; however, it is an economy reality,” Rupert said.

However, Superintendent Glass said, society is going to have to adapt to the new reality.

“All of these restrictions are likely to be with us until we have some resolution to this virus. People and businesses are going to have to think about how they adjust work schedules, how we can have one parent at home,” Glass said.

The district is still trying to make decisions on having students and staff wear masks, determining if there are resources for before and after school programs and picking a schedule for in-person learning that works for all families and grade levels.

Having access to testing could answer many of those questions.

“If we had access to testing at schools we would do that in a heartbeat, that would take care of the 10-1 ratio, symptom screening, whether students and staff wear face coverings,” Julie Wilken said.

JeffCo Public Schools will release a full model on May 22 and a final plan in July.