Littleton Public Schools will switch to all-remote learning beginning Nov. 17 and running through the rest of the fall semester in the face of climbing COVID-19 numbers, according to an announcement posted to the district's website on Nov. 11.
The district has been struggling to keep up with compounding impacts from the pandemic, according to the announcement from Superintendent Brian Ewert.
The district has had about 140 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff since in-person learning resumed on Aug. 24, triggering at least 90 targeted quarantines.
Though Ewert told Colorado Community Media on Nov. 5 he planned to keep the district in-person as long as possible, the announcement says the district reached “the tipping point in the system where in-person learning is no longer feasible.”
Case numbers are growing so rapidly that the Tri-County Health Department can't keep up with contact tracing demands, the announcement says.
The district's “COVID Tracker,” a page that compiles numerous local COVID-related metrics into a daily “score” to guide decisionmaking, has been in the red zone — the lowest ranking — for more than two weeks as of Nov. 12, meaning remote learning is recommended. The tracker degraded from the green zone in mid-October.
Arapahoe County's switch back to the high-risk category on its own COVID tracking page means positive cases now require far-reaching quarantines when positive cases are identified among students and staff.
Staffing problems are getting worse, the announcement says, calling it “impossible on some days” to find enough teachers and subsitutes to properly staff classrooms.
Teachers are also burned out.
“Our teachers and all of our school-based staff have done a truly outstanding job, taking on a much heavier workload since August,” the announcement reads in part. “As quarantines increase, the stress and anxiety across the entire system is becoming unmanageable.”
The speed of viral transmission could shut down bussing in a “matter of days,” the announcement says.
Despite Ewert's efforts to keep schools in-person, the district had already moved Littleton, Heritage and Options high schools and the NOVA program to remote learning by early November.
Ewert said he hopes the district can return to in-person learning at the beginning of the spring semester on Jan. 5, or sooner if COVID numbers improve dramatically beforehand.
Childcare will not be available during remote learning, though free meals are still available to all students in the district, with more information available at LPSnutrition.com.
“While a temporary shift to remote learning is not what is best for students' learning and social-emotional needs,” the announcement reads in part, “it is necessary at this time to keep our students, staff, families and fellow community members safe during this COVID surge in our area.”
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