Pointing to a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County over the past 10 days, the Cherry Creek School District announced in-person classes will begin Aug. 17 as previously planned.
“We will continue to monitor daily COVID rates,” wrote Scott Siegfried, district superintendent, in an Aug. 6 online message to the community. “If we see a sustained change in the wrong direction and it becomes unsafe to maintain in-person learning, I will not hesitate to make the call to switch to full remote learning.”
Siegfried urged parents to consider their child care needs in case a change is necessary, and he emphasized that the district’s ability to maintain in-person classes “is 100% dependent upon our collective actions and decisions.
“As we prepare to open, I am asking for all members of the Cherry Creek Schools community to do our part to help ensure that students can be in school. Please help your students avoid meeting with large groups of friends, maintain appropriate social distancing and have them wear a mask in accordance with the state mandate,” Siegfried wrote. “Together, as a community, is the only way this will work.”
Under the district’s system of evaluating COVID-19 data — dubbed the Cherry Creek Schools COVID Tracker — when trends in the coronavirus' spread are reassuring enough in seven-to-14-day periods, the district will continue to hold classes in person.
The district considers data including Arapahoe County's percentage of COVID-19 tests that show as positive, the county's number of hospitalizations and its overall number of added cases over time.
The framework uses a point system to represent the state of the virus’ spread. The public can view the daily rating here.
Cherry Creek's decision for starting in-person class comes as nearby Denver metro-area districts have pushed back their opening dates for in-person instruction. Some have pushed out the date a month or more: Denver Public Schools announced it will extend fully remote instruction from the start of school on Aug. 24 through Oct. 16, and students in Aurora Public Schools will learn remotely through the first quarter, which ends Oct. 8.
The Cherry Creek district will open with in-person class five days per week for pre-kindergarten up to fifth grade and a “blended” model for grades six through 12 that puts half of students in school Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the other half attending Thursday and Friday.
Families had the option to put their students in the district’s online program instead, and as of July 29, more than 9,400 students were registered for fully online school: 2,778 high-schoolers, 2,321 middle-schoolers and 3,912 elementary students, according to a district presentation. The district includes more than 55,000 students.
Aug. 17-21 will be a “phase-in week” in which all students can come to school to practice new routines, and staff and students can begin to develop relationships, prior to the full start.
Siegfried wrote that the district has worked with its teachers’ union to build a restart plan that “prioritizes the health and safety of students, staff and community, as well as the learning needs of our children.
“This week, our teachers’ association overwhelmingly voted to support our restart agreement and the data-driven approach to determining whether to return to in-person or remote learning,” Siegfried wrote. “I appreciate our teachers. Please take every step possible to support them.”
The district made online class an option for all K-12 students, with a new online program is available for grades K-5. Middle- and high-school students can take online courses through Cherry Creek Elevation, the district's online school. In both programs, all instruction will be delivered by a certified Cherry Creek School District teacher, according to the district's plan.
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