School will look and feel a lot more normal when students return to classrooms in August, with Littleton Public Schools joining a wave of districts planning to drop the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions.
The district plans to ditch face masks, social distancing and widespread quarantines when school resumes Aug. 12, according to an email sent to parents in mid-June.
Clubs, after-school activities and field trips will resume as normal, buses will return to pre-COVID capacities, and parents, volunteers and visitors will again be allowed in schools according to standing security protocols.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 will still be required to isolate for “a number of days” as outlined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.
“It’s important to remember that these plans are preliminary at this time and reflect our best-case scenario,” the email reads in part.
“It could change if there’s an outbreak or a variant that the vaccination isn’t effective with,” Superintendent Brian Ewert said at a June 10 school board meeting. “But that’s our plan to move forward.”
TOPS, the district’s optional all-online learning program, will not come back this fall.
The district will continue to provide meals to students at no charge for the coming school year, thanks to federal funding.
The district will not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students or staff.
COVID vaccines are currently approved for people 12 and older. Studies on vaccines for children under 12 are currently underway, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts believe COVID vaccines for young children may be approved as soon as September or October — after the beginning of the school year.
Just over 55% of people 12 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Arapahoe County as of June 18, according to the Tri-County Health Department.
School board president Robert Reichardt said though the district has long required students to show proof of other vaccines — though families were allowed to opt out of the requirement under certain circumstances — the plan is to follow the state’s lead in terms of leaving the COVID vaccine optional.
“That said, vaccines have been our most powerful tool to address the pandemic,” he said. “The more people who are vaccinated, the more luck we’ll have keeping things on an even keel.”
Reichardt said he remains hopeful that high community vaccination rates will make up for the unavailability of COVID vaccines for young children.
“The thing that worries me is variants,” Reichardt said. “Will they behave differently than strains we’ve already dealt with?”
It’s impossible to please everyone when it comes to COVID restrictions, Reichardt said.
“There will be a group of adults unhappy with whatever decision we make,” he said. “It’s stressful to manage. But we’re trying to balance the educational and mental health needs of our student body.”
Reichardt said he didn’t yet know if the district would continue to host COVID testing or vaccine sites as it had in the spring, but said he would be happy to make space for both.
Teachers are cautiously optimistic and eager to go back to normal, said Amanda Crosby, who heads the district’s teachers’ union.
“Everyone would prefer a normal year, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we’re not in control — the virus is,” Crosby said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed that no new variants create any more problems.”
It’s crucial that parents continue to keep kids home if they show symptoms, Crosby said.
“People will be on the honor system,” she said.
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