SOUTHERN COLORADO — News 5 has been covering the back-to-school season for weeks, and now it's time for the first day of class. However, with this school year comes excitement, uncertainty, and concern. With more than 65 percent of the state fully vaccinated, many school districts have seen fit to return to a more normal year. However, concern grows over new variants and the fact that children under the age of 12 are unvaccinated. With those concerns, debate continues on what is the right way to go about the new school year. News 5 has covered a number of issues on this topic and how the community is trying to find solutions.
In July, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CPDHE) released new COVID-19 guidelines for back-to-school.
The state says it will adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that came out a couple of weeks ago.
- Increased physical distancing.
- Serial COVID-19 testing.
- Contact tracing.
- Targeted quarantining.
- Limiting high-risk activities.
- This includes: indoor sports, contact sports, and other activities involving forced exhalation such as band or orchestra
The CDPHE reiterated that the guidelines are not a state requirement, and they recommend that school districts take a "layered" approach to this in order to minimize the spread. For example, they say places with higher transmission rates may want to use more precaution than places with lower transmission rates.
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading quickly, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends anyone above the age of two wear a mask while at school. The federal government has not endorsed the AAP mask recommendation for the fall semester.
Below you can find more details on your local school district's local guidance:
- Find your district's most recent COVID-19 plans for Fall 2021
- Cheyenne Mountain School District to require masks indoors
- District 60 to operate fully in-person for 2021-2022 school year
- District 38 releases guidance for students, staff returning to school
- Masks recommended, not required for Pueblo School District 70 students and staff
- Local school districts prepare for a near-normal academic year
Schools Under Pressure
With COVID-19 protocols being handed over to local control, the pressure was placed on the school districts to make the decision on how to move forward with the school year. No matter what decision was made, whether it was on masks, remote learning, or social distancing, schools faced a battle with parents and the community. In addition to COVID-19 protocols, schools also faced many other issues this year, including staffing shortages, and many school districts are facing this even as the school year kicks off. Another issue, whether or not to implement new material, like Critical Race Theory. District 49 became the first school district in Colorado to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, it's a move that has been praised by some and heavily criticized by others. Below you can find out more about the issues and controversies schools are facing, and what they are doing to solve them before the start of school.
- Parents sign open letter seeking mask mandate in school
- Colorado charter school taking extra precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19
- District 49 families weigh in on internal letter regarding COVID-19 protocols
- State Board of Education pens letter to Gov. Polis to impose no state-level regulation on in-person learning
- How banning Critical Race Theory in District 49 could impact classrooms
- District 49 faces shortage of food service workers
- Academy D20 offering incentives to combat bus driver shortage
Mental Health/Adjusting to a New Normal
For many of us, it feels like the pandemic is over, but with upticks of variants and new cases around the country, there is still uncertainty ahead. The past school year was tough on many families, whether it was in-person, remote, or going back and forth due to the changing risk of the virus. Many students struggled as well, not just with remote learning, but losing out on time with friends, playing sports, or participating in after-school activities. With all of this, came what some called "a mental health crisis." News 5 has covered this aspect of back-to-school extensively. Below you will find a list of how you and your students can tackle certain these issues in order to start the school year on the right foot.
- Colorado child psychiatrist advises parents to talk to children about school's protocols before return to classroom
- Another look at COVID-19 learning loss as more kids head back to school
- As Colorado sees an uptick in homeschoolers, families share benefits of switching over
- Colorado Springs teen tells of her experiences being bullied as students head back to school
Coming Together for a Better Year
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, communities across southern Colorado have come together to help our local schools. Private companies like Kaiser Permanente have also stepped in to help, providing grants to improve food access. In addition to resources, News 5 has also talked to teachers and school staff, who say they are optimistic about the school year, and that it could make a big difference after our students spent a year at home.
- Back to School: D49 Band and Choir teacher looking forward to second teaching year
- Harrison School District 2 rolling out program to provide free before and after school child care
- School resource officers in Pueblo talk about their important role in schools
- Kaiser Permanente helping to improve food access for thousands of students
- Retired Pueblo teacher donates huge collection of instruments to Title 1 schools
- Dakota Promise Program helping make college more accessible for students