COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Governor Jared Polis would like to see schools in Colorado return to in-person learning wherever possible in January, and he's put together a working group for that purpose. There's been no state-wide closure of schools. However, many local districts suspended in-person learning earlier this month because of high virus activity in the community and difficulty finding teachers and substitutes.
"As a society, we value education. It's our future, it's your kids future," the governor told reporters in a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
The working group is made up of 15 members from around the state. They include parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, school superintendents, and public health officials. They plan to meet weekly and discuss strategies for handling obstacles to in-person learning like staffing shortages.
"That to me is one of the great opportunities that this workgroup has is for us to think creatively, to be innovative in how we approach that type of a challenge," said Amie Baca-Oehlert, who is a parent and teacher in addition to being president of the Colorado Education Association.
While virus activity is high right in many counties, group member and Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon pointed out that schools are comparatively safer than other public spaces like stores and restaurants because of the safety measure put in place.
"You know, there are a number of other environments outside of the schools that actually are not nearly as safe where they don't have the same either adherence to the protocols or they don't have any oversight," said Harmon.
The group plans to build on lessons learned from when students returned to school earlier in the fall. Rebecca Holmes of the Colorado Education Initiative complimented schools for their progress in adapting to e-learning. However, she hopes that e-learning will remain a temporary necessity.
"As a trained educator myself, there's just no replacement for most kids, on most things, to in-person learning," she said.
The governor said he doesn't want education to become another victim of the pandemic.
"Every family in Colorado cares about the success of their kids and we just have to figure out how make sure that schools can be as safe as they can for in-classroom education during a pandemic."