Southern Colorado school districts plan for fall

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Six school districts in the Pikes Peak Region are collaborating with the guidance from District Management Group to build a plan for re-opening that addresses five key challenges: public health, difficulty in agreement, a short period of time, intense scrutiny, and shifting circumstances.

The six school districts include Academy School District 20, Colorado Springs School District 11, Harrison School District 2, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, Lewis-Palmer School District 38, and Widefield School District 3. 

“We’re planning for a moving target, we are planning, but we don’t know what we are planning for,” said Allison Cortez, spokesperson for Academy District 20.

Colorado is gradually reopening its economy after a stay-at-home order helped slow the spread of the virus. On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis told the Board of Education that contingency planning for coronavirus outbreaks is key.

School districts are allowed to offer computer instruction this summer at facilities with proper distancing.

The districts are preparing for three possible ways to do learning this fall: remote learning, modified in-person, or a hybrid of the two.

“This is a challenging time. When you are looking at a new plan or a new program you usually have 12 – 18 months to do research and put a plan together, we have 7 – 9 weeks to do that,” said Samantha Briggs, Widefield district 3 spokesperson.

If there is an outbreak among students in a classroom, they will move to complete online learning.

Throughout this process, school district’s will rely on five key work groups, including:

Instructional Core/Social Emotional Learning – this workgroup will look at addressing the academic and social-emotional needs of all students in the district. They will consider curriculum, instructional design, school and staffing schedules, and a myriad number of details related to teaching and learning.

Operations – this workgroup will create a detailed and well-understood plan for operations to include (but not limited to) opening buildings, safe and healthy environments, and transportation.

Resources – this workgroup will identify how to utilize financial resources to implement the plans being considered by the other groups to support student learning, staff health and wellbeing, and safe facilities. Also, this workgroup will develop options to maximize nutrition services and other ancillary services safely.

Stakeholder and Communications – this workgroup will bring stakeholders from throughout our community together to support transparent and frequent communication on the district’s efforts.

The Steering Committee — this workgroup is where all of the information, considerations, and plans from the above workgroups will come together to ensure equity issues are being adequately addressed and plans are implemented with fidelity for the benefit of all staff, students and families. The Steering Committee will consist of the team leads of each workgroup.

First, please know our goal in developing plans for the start of next year is to maximize face-to-face instructional time between teachers and students in an environment that is supportive of teaching and learning and maintains the safety and health of students and staff.  Ideally, we can return back to school in August in an environment similar to the one we left in March.  However, Academy District 20 is bound by any Executive Orders of the Governor, Health Orders of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, and local El Paso County guidelines that exist in August.  I, along with the Board of Education, are obligated to comply with all orders and laws. I intend to take full advantage of any flexibilities granted that assure students can enjoy school with as few restrictions as possible, while also protecting the health and safety of students and staff. Assuming we are not permitted to return in August under a normal school schedule, we are developing educational plans to meet the variety of needs and expectations of our students, parents, and staff members. — Allison Cortez, D-20

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