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Denver Public Schools (DPS) students are heading back to the classroom. According to an announcement Friday from Superintendent Susana Cordova, the decision to open for in-school learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year was reached after collaborating with local health agencies and the DPS Return to School Workgroup. Cordova pointed specifically to updated guidance from the Metro Denver Partnership of Health which noted that prolonged school closures “threaten the health and safety of Colorado children.”
Most K-12 DPS schools will open for in-person learning on August 17.
“We are both excited to welcome our students and educators back to our schools and committed to doing it safely,” Cordova wrote in an open letter to the DPS community.
Bringing students, teachers, and staff back, of course, will require new safety protocols, Cordova acknowledged. All students and teachers will be screened “before or as they arrive at school,” the letter says. Beyond screenings, mask wearing will be mandatory, no large gatherings like assemblies will take place, and students will likely eat meals in their classrooms. DPS plans to disinfect all facilities “regularly” and provide ample soap and hand sanitizer for teachers, other staff, and students.
Despite this decision, all data suggests COVID-19 will have significant impacts in Colorado for the foreseeable future. On Thursday, June 25, the state reported 324 new cases, the largest daily increase since May. And other states are seeing much larger outbreaks; some are even re-implementing restrictions after reopening public spaces led to alarming transmission rates.
Cordova acknowledged that DPS realizes “the COVID-19 crisis isn’t over,” and therefore will provide an online-learning alternative for families who feel uncomfortable about their students returning to the classroom. It’s not immediately clear whether educators will have a similar option. It’s also unclear how many students will actually return, and DPS will be conducting a survey over the coming weeks to gather feedback from families about their plans for the fall so that the district can make decisions about services like bus routes and more.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information emerges.