COLORADO SPRINGS — Thousands of students are returning to the classroom this week as the Omicron variant continues to drive a major spike in COVID-19 cases.
Local school districts are adapting amid the surge to ensure in-person learning continues for the spring semester.
"We decided not to drop our mask mandate looking at the numbers that have risen over the holiday break. We are going to leave our mandate in place until February 4, which really gives our district time to see what the numbers will look like as students and staff return to school," said Christine O'Brien, Harrison School District 2.
"We want to reinforce our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Right now, we have informed our leadership to really work closely with our staff and make sure we are taking extra precautionary measures and kinda going back a step. What we want to do is manage group gatherings, in fact, try to limit those and make as many of those virtual whenever staff has to meet one on one. We want to avoid large lunches, potlucks, and things of that nature," said Dalton Sprouse, Pueblo School District 60.
Pueblo School District 60, Harrison School District 2, and Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 are continuing with mask mandates. Colorado Springs School District 11 doesn't have one but says things could change.
"We are just monitoring everything that is coming out because again things change rapidly, and continue to change rapidly. We see an increase, we see a decrease, we see a spike, we see a valley so we are continuously monitoring. Masks have never been intended to be a long-term thing in place. We are continuing to watch the data and monitor all of the guidance that comes out. It comes out rapidly, it could change, but we need to see how it does change," said Devra Ashby, Colorado Springs School District 11.
Students and staff will still be required to wear masks on school buses because of a federal mandate.
District 11, District 20, and District 3 will no longer be requiring close contacts to quarantine after exposure at school. This comes after the El Paso County Health Department revised its guidance for local school districts to meet the CDC's latest recommendations.
"We are really just going back to the drawing board and kinda seeing what will be happening over the next few weeks as we know that cases are going to continue to rise," said Sprouse.
"Our goal is to keep our schools open and students and staff in our schools and safely," said O'Brien.