These priorities were listed as ensuring the health, well-being and safety of all students and staff; maximizing student academic growth and achievement; providing support to teachers and staff and assuring operational and financial viability.
The reintroduction plan was created over the summer as a five-phase plan. As part of Phase 2+ of reopening, which included limited in-person learning and home learning, K-2 students were brought back on campus Sept. 29 for in-person classes four days a week.
“I was at several schools throughout our district and just the joy from both teachers and kids, it was so good to have kids back,” said Anderson. “Obviously, we have social distancing, masking, kids washing hands and just being really extra-careful. Overall, an incredibly successful day.”
Students in intensive special education programs also returned on Tuesday with K-2 students meeting four days a week and 3-12 students meeting two days a week. Students enrolled at the Boulder Technical Education Center were also able to return Tuesday, meeting two days a week, and outdoor learning was able to begin as an option for some schools.
According to Anderson’s presentation, they will be able to bring preschoolers back to school on Oct. 6 two days a week. He mentioned that they would need to continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in Boulder County before bringing back other students at different grade levels.
“We’re seeing the right trends, so we need to continue to see those trends over the next couple of weeks to know and understand if we can fully come back,” said Anderson.
Recommendations from an advisory group consisting of parents and teachers were made to put together a possible schedule for reopening. Based on projected feasibility, it would be highly probable for grades 6 and 9 to return one day a week starting Oct. 20 and grades 7 and 8 and 10-12 to return one day a week starting Nov. 3. It would be somewhat probable for grade 3 to return four days a week starting Oct. 20 and less feasible for grade 4 to return four days a week starting Nov. 10 and grade 5 to return four days a week starting Nov. 17.
“We’re feeling really good about the feasibility, and we’ll make that formal determination sometime next week,” said Anderson. “As we think about fourth, fifth grade, seventh to eighth grade, tenth to twelfth grade to the extent that we can bring those kids back safely and it makes sense, we’ll try to do that. We think it’s just wise to wait another week, let’s see where the health data shakes out and then we’ll be making that official announcement.”
Superior Trustee Neal Shah asked Anderson about the ability to keep students socially distanced within the schools based on the size of schools or a large student body.
“We’ve worked very closely with our operations team to ensure that we’re getting lots of circulation, close to 100 percent fresh air on the hour, so we think that we’re good there,” said Anderson. “All of our schools are unique and different. The guidance from Boulder County Public Health, it’s specific on the amount of social distancing we need to do, we know that in the first couple of weeks we wanted to err on the side of caution and then watch how that’s going.”
Anderson said that they want to make sure that they have enough staff to meet health protocols and be able to manage in-person instruction. One of the challenges they are currently facing is finding staff, such as substitute teachers, available to teach classes.
According to information provided by Chief Communications Officer Randy Barber, just under 300 staff members have qualified for medical exemptions from the government that allows them to teach remotely. They are continuously working to bring in substitute teachers to work in-person as part of the reopening plan.
“I was a little surprised to learn that the main issue for the slower return to in-person schooling is driven by a lack of staff,” said Shah in an email. “While the number sounds big, it is hard to put that in context without knowing how it compares to other districts.”
The boards also discussed the five-year strategic plan, All Together for All Students, that was approved in 2019 by the BVSD board. Outcomes of this plan include igniting learning in kids and making sure all kids benefit from challenging and relevant opportunities, reducing disparities in achievement and ensuring students have the necessary skills to be successful when they leave school.
Overall, the BVSD board members think this was a good start to their reopening plans and hope to continue moving forward.
“A few of us went this morning, it was just great to be there and to see how positive and how this is going to work and to stop thinking about all the things that aren’t going to work,” said Tina Marquis, board of education president. “So today was a really good focus on things moving forward. It was a good day.”
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