District 49 CEO Update: April 2, 2021
An exciting week at District 49 is coming to a close: Our first week of full schedule, full population, in-person learning. On behalf of D49, Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts wants to thank students, parents and staff for working and walking together through the most difficult year on record. Mr. Hilts also takes a look at the road still ahead, and highlights an opportunity to celebrate student role-models of resilience and flexibility through this difficult season of learning.
We invite you to take a look and have a listen. Thank you for your hard work and for making D49 the Best Choice to Learn Work and Lead!
D49 Returns After Spring Break
We are pleased to announce that District 49 will return from Spring Break on March 29 with a full-schedule, full-population model for all grades to complete the school year.
Our schedule will include a full Monday-Friday schedule for all in-person students, while still offering E-Learning for those who choose to attend remotely. Although we strongly encourage students to attend in-person, we are committed to support remote learning for families who choose that mode for the remainder of the school year. We are fully aware that community transmission levels remain at Level Yellow-Concern, but our state and county health departments support in-person learning at our current level, so long as we continue to implement safety protocols with vigilance. To support our return to more standard attendance, we will also lift the limits on bus seating capacity while maintaining masking requirements.
Our #1 goal has been to restart and sustain in-person learning. Understanding that bringing more students and staff together carries the potential for greater quarantines and exclusions, we are taking an intentional approach to our return. Restarting full attendance after spring break allows the greatest number of our staff to reach immunity by the time we resume normal operations. Because our two-week spring break begins on March 15, returning earlier in March would only add 4 additional in-person days, while creating heightened risks of exposure, transmission, and disruptive quarantines. In exchange for a more measured return, we will recapture those in-person days by converting “flexible Fridays” to standard attendance and instruction days. Those Fridays have been a resource for planning and support services, so restoring a five-day schedule will create one final workload challenge. To moderate that extra burden on educators and support staff, we are asking families to attend in person if at all possible.
Under the new model beginning March 29, we will prioritize in-person learning, so individual schools may consolidate E-learning sections in order to reduce the burden on teachers who support live or asynchronous E-learning.
As we have throughout the 2020-21 school year, we are calibrating our learning model based on three inputs: public health data, input from our D49 community, and input from our workforce. We are aware of the CDC recommendations to extend hybrid and virtual models, and we have consulted with our county health department, and the epidemiologists and physicians there support our return to 100% in-person attendance, while the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommends in-person learning through all levels of the dial, except for Purple. Additionally, our progress on vaccinating the D49 workforce means that virtually all staff who want the vaccine will have completed the two-dose, six-week sequence and will have the highest level of immunity when we return to full schedules. Meanwhile, we project that decreased community transmission and increasing vaccination rates will likely improve El Paso County’s rating from yellow to blue, and increase momentum toward green.
Although we are encouraged by these trends we remain cautiously optimistic as we see declining case rates flattening out above the next step down on the COVID dial. We know we may see increased transmission rates as restrictions ease and our community returns to more normal activity levels. Those dynamics will impact our schools, so we will redouble our vigilance about our safety system to prevent transmission in our schools to the greatest degree practical. We will continue to practice our system of cleaning, washing, distancing and masking to limit the spread of illness on our campuses.
Our nursing staff and administrators will also continue to monitor COVID positive cases, following EPCPH guidelines for isolation and precautionary quarantines, keeping in mind the potential for disruption increases when we open our doors to more in-person learners. We are moving forward with updated guidance and the availability of rapid testing, which will give us options to safely reduce the duration of precautionary quarantines.
Although the schedule will look more normal, we cannot let our guard down completely. We must still mask, distance, clean and sanitize. If we persevere through and after Spring Break, we may be able to give the class of 2021 a near-normal senior season. We remain very optimistic that we’ll see the return of proms, events, and large-capacity graduation ceremonies. After all that so many have sacrificed this year, our greatest hope is that in May we can celebrate not only commencement for our seniors, but also the approaching end of the pandemic for us all.
As always, we thank you for your continued hard work and trust.
Chief Education Officer
Chief Business Officer
Chief Operations Officer
D49 Will Add Older Elementary Students for In-Person Learning Jan. 19
District 49 will accelerate its staggered return to in-person learning for the spring semester, welcoming all elementary students (PreK - 5) on Jan. 19—expanding capacity from the initial plan to begin with PreK - second-grade learners.
As we shared ahead of the Holiday Break, we are bringing staff and students back purposefully to ensure we can safely implement and sustain a return to in-person learning. In addition to the improving community conditions and improving testing, quarantine, and vaccine options, our elementary school principals strongly recommend we advance the schedule for older elementary students based on three key pieces of reasoning:
- Returning all students at once supports families that have children in multiple grades
- Returning more students sooner captures more in-person learning and supports more of our teachers who may have children in older elementary grades
- Our safety system of regular hand-washing, deep cleaning of our buildings, distancing and masking, paired with natural school layouts and established learning cohorts is just as effective with all grades as with some grades
*Please Note* Preschool students return to their pre-break schedule on Jan. 11. All preschool programs return to their typical/normal schedule on Jan. 19. Parents should contact their preschool teacher with any questions.
County medical leaders recommend a staggered return and our educators strongly support that approach, so we are still on track to welcome back middle and high school students to a 50/50 hybrid schedule beginning the week of Jan. 25. We will also offer E-learning through the remainder of this school year for families who prefer to remain in the remote setting.
When we return, we will adhere to the safety system that has effectively helped us manage the spread of illness, making our campuses safe and secure places to learn. We will continue to closely track public health data in our community, staying in contact with our partners at El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) and we will provide timely updates as needed.
As always, we encourage our staff and families to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If you’re experiencing symptoms, please stay home and contact your family doctor right away.
Please monitor our regular channels of communication for any updates. We thank you for your enduring patience, understanding and trust. We will walk forward together with respect, care and our shared commitment to delivering excellent education in safe and secure environments.
January Return to Learn Plan
As we bring our first semester to a close, we want to wish you a happy holiday season, and share a look ahead to our planned return to learn in January. We know the D49 Family does its best work in person, so we are determined to bring back in-person learning early in the spring semester. With the possibility that holiday gatherings and travel will extend our current level on the Colorado COVID-19 dial, our county health partners recommend we monitor health data for two full weeks after the New Year. That makes January 19 the best target to restart in-person learning.We invite you to listen to an overview of our plan in this message from Peter Hilts, D49 Chief Education Officer.
Like you, we can’t wait to see our schools filled with students and staff. The key for us is that when we come back in person, we want to stay back. We’ll stay attentive to county health conditions and re-populate our campuses in stages, just as we did in September, knowing that stability is just as important as speed.
Based on current trajectories and projections, our strategic sequence will go like this:
Jan. 6 - Staff will return to work under the on-site/remote conditions of E49 Red.
Jan. 6 - District 49 will update and confirm our planned sequence based on county data levels and trends.
Jan. 7 - Students will return to learn on remote status. Schools will use the first days of the semester to establish schedules and rosters for E-learning and to set a foundation for future in-person learning.
Jan. 7 - Grab-and-go meal service will resume at all seven district locations.
Jan. 11 - In the second week, we’ll bring staff back in person to manage E49 and prepare for students’ return.
Jan. 11 - We will restart serving special populations on campus, and continue E49 for all students.
Jan. 19 - In the third week (after MLK Day), we’ll restart our full-population, full-schedule in-person learning for PreK-2 students.
We will continue E49 for all students 3-12
Jan. 25 - In the fourth week we’ll add grades 3-5 to the elementary schedule.
Jan. 25 - In the fourth week we’ll also reestablish the 50-50 in-person/E-learning hybrid for middle and high schools
For PreK-12 students who choose E-learning, we’ll continue that service through the semester
*If county conditions degrade and county partners advise us it is too risky to return, we will announce that adjustment as soon as we get that guidance. Otherwise, weeks 1-4 will correspond to the four weeks of January and the dates above.
Several encouraging factors are building our confidence about this strategic return to in-person learning. After Thanksgiving, we didn’t see a surge in cases that would endanger our neighbors and overwhelm our hospitals. So, as current risk levels are slowly improving, we are counting on our community to lead us into January with stable or improving conditions.
We’ll continue with our safety system, the washing, disinfecting, masking and distancing that helped us keep at-school transmission to a minimum. We will also start the semester under new guidance from the governor’s back-to-school roadmap that reduces the impact of precautionary quarantines, and gives us better methods for targeted contact tracing. And, we’ll emphasize personal responsibility for symptom checking to make sure no one comes to school or work when they don’t feel 100%. District 49 is also working directly with county leaders and third-party providers to provide dedicated testing times for district personnel to complete free, as-needed PCR testing, the most reliable option available.
We also know the vaccine is coming, and that’s a source of greater hope for our long-term return to normalcy. Based on current planning, school staff are in priority group two to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The two-dose inoculation takes four weeks to administer, and six weeks for an individual to reach full immunity. That schedule, plus the slow ramp up of available doses, means that we won’t really see the large-scale benefit of vaccinations until after spring break. Accordingly, we expect to maintain our safety system through the end of the school year.
With all that we’ve endured, and all that we hope, we trust you will have a true holiday break with meaningful and refreshing time for yourselves and your families. Knowing that promising days are ahead, have a wonderful holiday, and we’ll see you in the new year.
Peter Hilts, Chief Education Officer
Brett Ridgway, Chief Business Officer
Pedro Almeida, Chief Operations Officer
49Voices Survey: E49 - Fall Semester '20-’21
On November 9, we launched a second phase of E49. Although we experienced very low numbers of in-school transmission of illness as we strictly followed our Safety System of Cleaning, Washing, Distancing and Masking, it became increasingly apparent we could not sustain adequate staffing to deliver in-person learning while following public health guidance on quarantines during a rapid, and prolonged surge of COVID-19 positivity in our community. We will maintain E49 into the start of our next semester, and we want to check in to learn more about your experience this year with E49.
We invite you to take a few minutes to share what you think about our effectiveness as we continue school year 20-21 and our current phase of E49.
Click here to take the survey https://bit.ly/ReturnToE49
We get better when we learn, so your feedback directly supports and leads to performance improvement. Thank you in advance for taking time to complete this short survey.
School District 49
Nutrition Services will resume grab-and-go meal distribution beginning Nov. 9 at no cost to all of our students as we enter another phase of E-learning (E49).
Meals for students may be ordered at no charge for themselves and for their siblings who are between the ages of 1-18. Meals can be picked up at the student's school, or the school that is closest for the family.
Meals must be pre-ordered by 7:30 am of the morning of pick-up. Please continue to watch our regular channels of communication the week of Nov. 20 for updates to the meal service locations.
Thank you for your time and attention. You can email questions to Monica Deines-Henderson at email@example.com
Director of Nutrition Services
D49 Community Update October 2020 & Survey
D49 Community Update from Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts, October 2020
Dear D49 Family, We are coming up on fall break! School year 2020-21 is well underway, and we thank you for working so hard as we wrap up our first quarter and continue our gradual return to in-person learning. We will maintain our current, full population model for elementary students, and our 50-50 hybrid for middle and high school students through fall break and for at least two weeks after we resume on October 26.
We invite you to join us for a message from D49 Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts, and take a brief survey to share what you think about our effectiveness as we continue school year 20-21 and our gradual return to in-person learning. You’ll find the link in this post, in your in-box and online at D49.org.
Thank you for your hard work, and your honest feedback.
Have a great fall break!
Survey link: http://bit.ly/49Voices_RTL
Please keep students home if they don’t feel well
Dear D49 Families,
We want to share a friendly reminder that sending learners to school requires at-home health screening every day.
Along with the excitement of reuniting and getting to know each other in our return to in-person learning, we are already experiencing the challenges of illness in our classrooms. As we are seeing, even minor symptoms can have significant ripple effects to our return to in-person learning. Guidance from our partners at El Paso County Public Health supports our nursing staff as they assess children showing COVID-like symptoms at school, and also informs their appropriate response, which in some cases requires sending home cohorts of learners and school staff.
Parents can help! Please keep students home if they don’t feel well, or are experiencing symptoms in the following checklists:
Symptoms Observed or Reported:
1 or more MAJOR SYMPTOMS
Feeling feverish, having chills or temp of 100.4F or greater
New or unexplained persistent cough
New or unexplained shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Loss of sense of taste or smell
2 or more MINOR SYMPTOMS
Runny nose or congestion
Muscle or body aches
EMERGENCY COVID-19 WARNING SIGNS include: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face. Seek medical attention immediately by calling 911.
Students should stay home if they are experiencing:
1 or more major symptoms and/or 2 or more minor symptoms indicated on the table above.
This, and more useful information may be found on the D49 Nursing Services webpage. We encourage all of our families to become familiar with this process. Paired with our system of safety protocols, following these steps will give D49 our best chance at making this school year the safe and memorable one we know it can be.
Thank you for your time, understanding, and enduring trust.
Ordering Meals for E-Learners
Dear D49 families,
Nutrition Services is excited to participate in USDA's extension of the summer feeding waiver to provide meals at no cost to all of our students who are attending school in person or through E-learning, even those who would otherwise pay for breakfast and lunch. This USDA program runs through the fall 2020 semester.
Those participating in E-learning can order meals at no charge for themselves and for their siblings who are between the ages of 1-18. Meals can be picked up at the student's school or the school that is closest for the family, starting on Monday, Sept. 14.
To order meals for E-learners only, please go to the Nutrition Services website for complete details.
BACK TO SCHOOL INFORMATION
D49 High Schools Increasing In-Person to 50 Percent Capacity Sept. 28
District 49 Chief Education Officer Return to Learn Update, 9/25/20
Secondary Return to Learn Launch Sept. 14, 2020
September Important Changes and Updates: Nutrition Services
Middle School & High School Return To Learn in September
Elementary on Track for Elementary Return to In-Person Learning
Welcome Back: Video Message
D49 Student COVID-19 HealthScreening Protocol
Return to Learn - Meal Distribution
Remote Learning Begins Aug. 17
August Thought Exchange Results
Board of Education approved delaying the start to Aug. 17
RETURN TO LEARN: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: July 29
Special BOE Meeting - July 27, 2020