COLORADO SPRINGS — Despite several school districts across Colorado reporting cases of coronavirus, positive trends regarding case numbers in El Paso County have many hoping to welcome students back for in-person learning by mid-September.
Academy District 20 started school on Monday, only allowing elementary students to return to the classroom five days a week, if parents chose that option. "Our school year started with what we like to call a lot of choices," said Allison Cortez of Academy District 20.
Academy District 20 reported two staff members at different elementary schools tested positive for coronavirus in the first week. They have not had a student test positive for the virus. However, they have had to isolate both students and staff who have come into contact with the positive cases, or someone who displays symptoms. "We started on Monday, and effectively in four days, we had four quarantines... We've been quarantining, we've been isolating, and we've been deep cleaning," said Cortez.
Cortez said CDPHE guidance requires any person who has been in contact with a symptomatic person to quarantine.
Friday was the first day all week they did not have to quarantine staff or students for COVID-19 symptoms. "We had two positive cases, but we also have nearly 27,000 students and almost 4,000 employees. So, two out of that number, is a very small number... I think what COVID-19 has really taught everyone in K-12 education is that there's no such thing as a solid plan, or a final plan anymore. Every day is a new day, we learn something new, we have to be really fluid and flexible," said Cortez.
Looking forward, Cortez said they hope to bring middle and high school students back for in-person learning on September 14, but that could always change depending on coronavirus trends.
Those with Colorado Springs School District 11 said they have been discussing getting children back into the classroom all along. "We won't jeopardize their health, and we won't jeopardize the health of our staff, so we've been very cautious," said Devra Ashby, the public information officer for District 11.
Ashby said if the district can bring students back in a safe manner, they will. "If we continue to see positive health trends in El Paso County, we will go back to in-person learning. We're looking at mid-September, possibly," said Ashby.
Ashby said if that were to happen, students would be brought back in a staggered manner. That means elementary students would go back in-person first for five days a week, then middle school students would return for full weeks on a block schedule. High school students would be in-person on a hybrid plan. These details were originally released in School District 11's Return to Learn plan.
The district plans to discuss how to safely return to in-person learning at every board meeting until mid-September. "We have never been through anything like this... No school district is going to get this 100% correct," said Ashby.
"If they really want to see kids back in school, help us out. Wear a mask, social distance, stay home when you need to," added Ashby.
Daniel Luu is a parent with four children attending schools in Academy District 20. Right now, he said his kids are doing well with online learning, but said they would prefer to be back in the classroom. "If you want to send your kids to school, somebody's going to criticize you. If you want to keep your kids at home, somebody's going to criticize you... Obviously, every family's going to be different, and I think that's going to be the hard part, right?" said Luu.
Luu said his best advice for fellow parents is to keep communicating with their school district, and also with their children, to explain future flexibility with their schedules. "I'm 100% supportive if the kids want to go back full time, and that's what our plan is," said Luu.
Academy District 20 reported on Friday that two probable cases from Frontier Elementary School have come back negative, and they are still waiting on results of the last one. There is currently one confirmed case from that school.
The other confirmed case for Academy District 20 is at Ranch Creek Elementary School.