COLORADO SPRINGS — Academy School District 20 announced Friday the school year's start date will be pushed back one week, to August 24. D20 also said it is likley the first few days of school will include a "soft" or "staggered" return, with small groups of students coming in each day.
Last Friday the district announced plans to have students return to class on August 17, with new safety guidelines implemented in regards to the global pandemic.
The following Monday, July 20, the Colorado Department of Education and CDPHE released updated guidance for reopening schools in the state.
Days later El Paso County Public Health revised its guidance requesting local schools not reopen until August 17, allowing for time to better understand the trajectory and impact of COVID-19 cases.
More details on the change are in the district's weekly letter to parents on the D20 website.
While A20 is excited to return to in-person learning, the health of students and teachers is still a concern. According to the district's Return to School Plan for the 2020 school year, District 20 plans to follow all local and state guidelines to keep everyone safe. New protocols include social distancing, wearing face masks, hand washing, health screenings, and an addition of what the district calls, "student cohorts."
The idea of student cohorts is to keep students in small groups and in the same groups in order to reduce exposure. No large gatherings will be allowed, and student schedules may be changed in order to maintain their same cohort group.
With COVID-19 still a prominent and unpredictable factor, many families may still feel unsafe returning to the classroom. District 20 plans to offer a full online learning option for those students and parents that would prefer to stay at home.
"If we need to move to fully online learning, we have offered a comprehensive professional learning plan for teachers to enhance their skills," said the release. "These professional learning programs stem directly from feedback gathered from families and teachers about experiences and expectations with distance learning this past spring."
Superintendent of Schools Tom Gregory says the schools have a shared responsibility in stopping the spread of the virus.
"Returning to the classroom is a start, but we must work to sustain in-person learning," Gregory said. "Doing so means protecting the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and community by social distancing, wearing face coverings, utilizing cohort style groupings, practicing good hygiene, limiting contacts, and going outdoors. If we practice these measures, perhaps we can avoid outbreaks – which is defined narrowly as two positive tests – within our schools."
For more information about the A20 Return to School Plan, check out their website here.