Dear Team DPS,
Earlier today, Mayor Hancock announced that the City of Denver has now moved to "Safer at Home" Level 3 based on the rising number of COVID cases in our community. As we consider this and the implications for our schools, I continue to feel the frustration that I think we all share with how hard this pandemic has been for our students, families and educators. But I’m so thankful for the resilience of the DPS community -- it’s been our greatest collective strength in getting through this challenging time.
Over the past 48 hours, we have been closely examining our DPS data from our time offering in-person schooling and having thorough conversations with our partners at Denver Health, our Board of Education, and our educators about the best plan going forward. As a result, we have decided to make the following adjustments to scale back in-person instruction in response to the rising COVID cases but still keep our elementary schools open for our youngest learners:
· Early childhood education (ECE) through second grade will continue to attend full-time, in-person learning. Why? Our youngest students struggle the most with remote learning. These are our developing readers, and in-person support is absolutely critical to ensuring they are getting a solid foundation for their education. We’re also seeing that in-person conditions for these students are low risk. ECE-second grade active cases for students are 0.14% and are under 1% for elementary staff. The COVID risks for students in the early-elementary grades are also very low, according to our health partners.
· Grades 3-5 will stay open for in-person instruction through Friday, Oct. 30, and students will have the opportunity to gather supplies to prepare for remote learning. These grades will shift to remote learning on Monday, Nov. 2 and will stay in remote learning until the Thanksgiving holiday, when we will reassess health conditions. Why? We know that, while all elementary school children benefit from in-person instruction and support, we are concerned that the overall community trend requires us to shift more of our staff and students to remote learning. And we have strengthened our remote-learning systems and support in anticipation of needing to shift away from in-person schooling in response to changing health conditions. This also brings us in line with the Level 3 guidance, which reduces building occupancy to 25%.
· Grades 6-12 will remain in remote learning through the end of the semester in December. Why? Moving into remote for the remainder of the semester will allow our middle and high school teachers and students to focus on quality remote learning. Health conditions are unlikely to improve enough before the end of the semester to allow for safe, in-person schooling in our middle and high schools.
· Newcomer Centers, Remote-Learning Support Centers, and Special Education Center programs will continue to offer full-time, in-person learning for all grades through the rest of the first semester. Why? Students in our centers are some of the highest-need students who desperately need and require in-person support to be able to meaningfully engage in their learning. These centers operate with very small class sizes that can operate within health guidelines.
I am heartbroken that we are here. I believe that our efforts to gradually reopen our school buildings and educate and care for our children has been the right thing to do, and at the same time, it is clear that we need to balance this with the needs of our community to drive the COVID rates down. There is real fear, anxiety and concern on all sides, regardless of where you stand on this issue -- parents and students who desperately want their children to be in school, teachers and leaders who are concerned about their health and safety. There is no easy answer, but I want you to know that this balance -- serving the students who pose the least risk and need in-person learning the most -- while providing high-quality remote services to all others, is the balance that will serve us best in this difficult time.
Amidst all of the changes and complexities we’ve faced during the COVID crisis, we continue to be rooted in the health and well-being of our community. We are more prepared than ever to deliver strong remote instruction, based on changes we’ve made with feedback from students, families, and staff from surveys throughout the pandemic. We will continue to make sure each class is set up as well as possible for the remote-learning environment, and that students and families can access the support they need.
We will also be updating and improving our DPS COVID-19 Dashboard so that the "indicators" include important information about how COVID is impacting our school buildings and communities by separating our numbers for those in person and those in remote.
The most important thing each and every one of us can do to make it possible for students to return to in-person learning in the near future is to carefully and intently follow health and safety guidelines: Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Wash your hands frequently. Keep physical distance. Stay home if you are sick. These simple steps are crucial as we move into the cold and flu season, and we all must do our part.
To our Central Office team members, thank you for the help you’ve been providing to support in-person schooling. We will share more information later this week about what your help may look like moving forward.
If you have questions, please reach out to your supervisor, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, I truly appreciate your flexibility, patience, and willingness to do what it takes to keep our community safe and our kids learning.