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District 11 board votes to push start date back for all students

Elementary and middle school students will have class 5 days a week
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Posted at 12:43 AM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 19:52:32-04

COLORADO SPRINGS —
Update: District 11 announced on Wed., July 29 that the School Board has voted unanimously to change the start date for all students, both in-person and online, to August 24.

The disttrict said this decision will allow them to better plan and prepare for in-person experiences, and to review and plan for the new health and safety procedures. It will also allow for greater time to prepare for a quality remote learning experience for those families who choose that option for their students.

The district said more information will be provided in the coming weeks.

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With the school year starting soon many districts have begun announcing their plans to get kids back to school in a safe manner. During a work session Wednesday, Colorado Springs District 11’s superintendent presented the district’s latest plans to the school board.

But many parents out there still have questions. Last school year’s transition online was a new experience for 9-year-old Danilo Shirley.

“It’s kind of weird and different,” Shirley said. A D11 student, he’s getting ready for school to start back up. “I’m going into fourth grade,” he said.

Because he has a kidney condition putting him at a greater risk of COVID-19, he’s going to stick with online learning this year. But his mom, Tenyca Shirley, still has some questions.

“I really want to know like, what is going to be the teaching format,” Tenyca Shirley said.

D11 Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas brought some answers at a virtual work session Wednesday afternoon.

“Your students enrolling in our online program are going to, again, remain a D11 student, you’ll be paired with a D11 teacher, you’ll be supported through a D11 curriculum,” Thomas said. “You’re not going to be paired up with somebody who’s sitting out in Oregon who knows nothing about our community.”

For in-person learning, D11 wants to bring all elementary and middle school students back to campus five days a week.

“We need to strive toward six-foot distancing as much as possible. Masks within our district need to be worn whenever and wherever possible,” Thomas said.

He said there are cases where masks can’t be worn, like lunchtime, band class, and PE classes. He said teachers will also have discretion as to whether they think students can safely remove their masks in class if distanced appropriately.

“Our staff [is] going to have to make those decisions for their immediate context,” he said.

When it comes to high school, students will have a different experience than their younger peers. “Our high school mode is going to be a hybrid model,” Thomas said.

To keep down the number of students in the building, high school students would go to school following an “every other day” type of schedule, learning online on the off days.

Enrollment for the 100% online option is open, but the district is still working to put all the parts in place.

“We have yet to even staff this program,” Thomas said. “And we can’t staff the program until we know that the enrollment demand will be.”

Which leaves the Shirleys questions. “That kind of concerns me that they don’t have the teachers and staff for the e-learning already in place… I mean we’re getting toward the end of July,” Tenyca Shirley said.

“There are many, many questions coming. And I just want to let the community know, we’re hearing your questions,” Thomas said.

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News5 has compiled links to all the school districts in southeastern Colorado so parents can find out district plans amid concerns about COVID-19. We're covering this issue as part of The Rebound Colorado as our communities find safe ways to get life back to normal while keeping everyone's health in mind.

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