Dear Team DPS,
We appreciate all of the feedback we’ve received about this week’s decision to shift more students to remote learning in response to the concerning spike in COVID-19 rates in our community. We know the changes and challenges are frustrating for all of us, and it’s crushing to us to not have our schools fully open to serve our children and families.
COVID-19 has taken an enormous toll on our community, particularly among our Latino and African-American families (read more in the Denver Post). There are parts of the city with alarming and distressing infection rates. We must do all we can to stop the infection rates from increasing and get them back down to safer levels. We want to emphasize that the decision to shift to remote learning for students in grades 3-5 was directly from the advice of Denver Health. It was a direct result of our three “stoplight” indicators showing high levels of community spread and rates trending in the wrong direction.
The primary reason for shifting third- through fifth-graders to remote learning was to minimize disruptions in our schools and help to stop the increasing COVID spread in the community. When a school has a positive COVID case, which has mostly occurred through people contracting COVID outside of school, it triggers quarantines and, at times, an all-out school closure due to a lack of staffing, because of the need to quarantine staff in our schools. By reducing the number of students and staff in our schools, we’re eliminating those disruptions for third- through fifth-graders and helping to limit the spread of the virus by keeping more people at home.
We are facing a delicate balance -- addressing the rising spread, while also working to support the most vulnerable students in DPS and prioritizing the overall health and well-being of our community. That’s why we decided to continue offering in-person learning for our youngest students (ECE through second grade). These are our developing readers, and remote learning is particularly challenging for them. Though we have seen rising quarantines and disruptions to school schedules as COVID cases caused by community spread have affected our schools over the past few weeks, we have seen that in-school transmission of the virus is very low, particularly among our youngest students.
As the Denver Board of Education’s representatives on the district’s decision-making team for COVID-related matters, we bring our community’s perspective and priorities to every discussion, in consultation with all our board colleagues. We are joined by district leadership, school leaders, and DCTA leadership. We hear directly from our educators about how much they want to be back in our buildings with our students, and also about the serious concerns they have about health and safety. We spend many hours every week assessing the current health conditions, getting expert input and advice, and listening to and considering the full range of community perspectives.
We are heartbroken about not being able to have all of our students, in school, in person, learning with the teachers who care so much about them. We continue to start every discussion with the latest health data and ground every decision in the guidance and expertise of our health partners, while being mindful of and responsive to the priorities and concerns of our educators, students, and families. We will continue to focus on minimizing the impact of COVID on our community and maximizing our collective power to get us where we all want to be: Our schools fully open again for our students and families.
We hold all your thoughts and concerns in consideration as we talk with our health experts. We continue our work to get students back into classrooms in the healthiest way possible. Thank you for being in conversation with us.
Carrie A. Olson, PhD
Rev. Brad Laurvick
DPS Board of Education