Schools planning for Coronavirus impacts


COLORADO SPRINGS — Governor Jared Polis on Wednesday made several recommendations for schools during a press conference about the coronavirus. If a school has a single case of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, it should shut down for 72 hours and thoroughly clean it’s building. If there is more than one case, the school should shut down for 14 days while cleaning ensues.

No schools have closed in the state so far, but if districts were to make that decision in El Paso County, different schools would have different protocols.

Some districts have the capacity to assign homework and conduct limited lessons online. Other districts are hoping to implement that ability, but doubt it will be ready in the time a closure may need to happen.

“We do have a program called Schoology that can run in all of our schools. The challenge is not everyone is on it right now so can we, in the next few days, get everybody ramped up so they feel comfortable using this program so if we shut down, learning can still happen,” said Allison Cortez, the communications director for Academy School District 20.

If school shuts down other problems arise. In some districts, a school day means a place for their child while they go to work. In Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, the free and reduced lunch population is around 50 percent. It’s 46 percent in Widefield School District 3 where students in both districts get two meals each school day.

“We do have this population we need to think about when it comes to feeding those kids. What can that look like, what will that look like?” said Samantha Briggs, the communication director for Widefield School District 3.

Briggs points to child care as another place they’re looking for a solution before there is a problem by trying to organize with other community leaders to come up with a plan.

The school districts in El Paso County have collaborated with each other to create similar procedures when it comes to planning for the virus that the World Health Organization has now declared a pandemic because of its spread.

They have established three points found on districts’ websites:

  • Help Prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19
  • Protect our students, staff, and the community
  • Minimize the disruption of teaching and learning

The first two go hand in hand by practicing the proper hygiene tips passed on by the CDC.

“When we think about washing our hands or coughing into our elbow or wiping down surfaces with hot soap and water, we assume that a six-year-old has already been taught that but they don’t always know. So, we’re taking the opportunity at the beginning of all of our classes to reteach all of those ways to keep themselves healthy,” said Cortez.

The practice of “social distancing” is tough in the confined classrooms in schools, but districts are working to adapt by doing away with handshakes, hi-fives and other touch-based greetings, instead opting for air fives and foot fives.

“They still want that social feeling, that collaboration and that bond to happen in a safe and healthy way,” said McGee.

With Spring Break coming, Cortez has said many families have reached out to their plans. The district is reviewing if restrictions are necessary for school-sponsored activities and ask that parents let them know of their plans and be aware of the risks.

Pueblo School District 60 announced Wednesday they are canceling and out-of-state travel sponsored by the school district through at least of the end of March.

This information for all districts can be found on each district website. School Districts say, they will be contacting parents directly via email and posting on their websites for updates about the virus.

The communication directors all say they have run into rampant misinformation and rumors circulating. The districts will be quick and frequent in their responses.

“Rather than every Tuesday [updates], we’re going to make an update as soon as we know it and were going to put that on our digital communication and on our website,” Cortez said.

The districts are passing on their procedures and what parents should be aware of when it relates to school activity. The information regarding health, disease spread, and the latest on the virus’s presence in El Paso County all come from the experts at the EPC Public Health Department.

‘We’re going to continue to take our guidance and cooperating with the El Paso County Public Health Department and communicate with our community about what we are doing,” said Briggs.

Attendance for state basketball is limited to essential team personnel only.

Essential personnel means only those who have been submitted on the official CHSAA gate list by schools will be able to enter the venue. No spirit teams or bands will be permitted entry. Media will be permitted to attend if they have a CHSAA-issued pass.

Games in all classifications will be available on the NFHS Network this weekend, meaning fans will not miss out on the tournament. Additionally, will be providing live coverage of the games.

The decision is being made based upon recommendations by health officials in all areas, and follows decisions made by neighboring states, and the NCAA, including their postseason events being held in Colorado.

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