District 49 Chief Education Officer Return to Learn Update, 9/25/20

D49 High Schools Increasing In-Person to 50 Percent Capacity Sept. 28

  • Dear D49 Family,

    On Monday, September 28, we will continue our gradual return to in-person learning as we scale up to a 50 percent attendance capacity at D49’s “big three” traditional high schools, increasing from the current 25 percent capacity.

    Public health data indicating positive or stable trends with overall improving conditions supports the decision to increase capacity. Our schools and departments are responding quickly and appropriately to presumed or confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Even with quarantine disruptions and other considerations, the vast majority of in-person students and teachers have been successful at carrying on with in-person learning.

    Welcoming more students to campuses of Falcon, Vista Ridge and Sand Creek high schools will address our observation that in-person classes work better when a critical mass of students are present to energize discussions or other class activities. In addition, stepping up to 50 percent is part of a long-term strategy for safely returning to full-population, full-schedule learning later this semester.

    Schools will remain in close contact with families to provide specific planning and scheduling information. Please check our regular channels of communication for any updates.

    Thank you for your attentiveness and commitment to making our Return to Learn safe and successful.

    David Nancarrow

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

       Sore throat

       Runny nose or congestion

       Muscle or body aches

       Headache

       Fatigue

       Nausea, vomiting

       Diarrhea


    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.


Secondary Return to Learn Launch Sept. 14, 2020

  • D49 is on track to continue our cautious and purposeful return to in-person learning by welcoming our middle and high school students back to campus in a hybrid model starting Monday, Sept 14. Although COVID-19 conditions in the larger community are still serious, the major indicators all point toward improving public health and low risk to students and adults. Even media reporting about isolated incidents of exposure and quarantine demonstrate that schools can operate safely, contain transmission, and adjust to E-learning status rapidly when that is the prudent option. 

    (Edit: Many have asked if full-time E-learning is still an option for this semester. Yes, it is. Please contact your school for any questions.) 

    To date, although we are taking the pandemic seriously by implementing precautionary quarantines, we have no evidence of any at-school transmission across El Paso County. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of students and staff in area schools have been able to deliver in-person-learning without experiencing a quarantine or closure. When we decided to delay in early August, we were honoring the data and conditions at that time. Now, in early September, conditions have improved and we have observable evidence that schools can deliver safe, in-person learning. (Supporting data provided below)

    Middle School Plan and Schedule Overview

    • Students will return to in-person learning beginning the week of September 14.
    • Middle school students will attend at a 50% rate in cohorts defined by alphabet and grade level.
    • Zone priorities will dictate the need for school schedules and plans.
      • Falcon Middle School has already begun distributing schedules and plans for in-person learning. The FMS cohorts will split A-J and K-Z.
      • Horizon Middle School has already begun distributing schedules and plans for in-person learning to support a significant population of impacted students. The HMS cohorts will split A-L and M-Z.
      • Skyview Middle School has already begun distributing schedules and plans for in-person learning. The SMS cohorts will split A-L and M-Z. 

    Falcon MS

    Horizon MS

    Skyview MS









    • Middle schools will follow a consistent schedule Monday through Thursday.
    • Fridays will be flex days for independent learning, small group instruction, and specialized services for individual students.
    • Students who currently attend most/all days of the week will continue to do so (such as program-based special education students).

    High School Plan and Schedule Overview

    • Students will return to in-person learning beginning the week of September 14.
    • High school students will attend at a 25% rate in cohorts defined by alphabet.
    • All three conventional high schools will follow the same basic schedule and plan.
    • Schools will implement a two-week cycle of block scheduled classes Monday through Thursday.
    • Fridays will remain a flex day for in-person and online support, intervention, tutoring, individualized student services, etc.
    • Smaller and unconventional schools (PHS, PPEC, SSAE) will follow unique schedules (see details below in the iConnect Zone section).
    • SAT assessment will occur on Wednesday, September 23, and Friday, September 25 will make up for the Wednesday in-person instruction.
    • High schools will assign students to cohorts and provide schedules as soon as possible. 

    Falcon HS

    Sand Creek HS

    Vista HS

















    • Students will attend in-person on a day scheduled for their cohort each week – Monday through Thursday.
    • Students will attend online and on the same schedule (synchronously) for the rest of the week.
    • A limited number of junior/senior level classes (which may include concurrent enrollment) will remain exclusively online to limit the number of students in the building at one time.
    • Our intention is to increase in-person attendance to 50% of students after fall break – again, depending on county and district health data.
    • Students who currently attend most/all days of the week will continue to do so (such as program-based special education students).

     iConnect Zone - District Operated Schools:

    • The iConnect Zone district-operated schools (Falcon Homeschool Enrichment/Academic Program (FHP), Patriot High School (PHS), Pikes Peak Early College (PPEC), and Springs Studio for Academic Excellence (SSAE) will follow the district’s plan to bring small cohorts of students back into buildings.
    • The iConnect Zone is purposeful in designing student schedules that allow for both remote and in-person learning and allow students to remain in cohorts while at school. Examples of in building cohort learning include: culinary and construction course work at PHS, staggered days for grade-level cohorts at SSAE and PPEC, small enrichment and academic support groups at the FHP, and intervention groups throughout the zone. Student groups who meet at schools are less than 25 per cohort. 
    • The iConnect Zone district-operated schools will maximize the use of facility space five days a week. With rotating schedules, some staff will work from district facilities while others work remotely. This is more typical for SSAE, PPEC, and FHP where facilities are shared. PHS staff will operate out of the Falcon Legacy Campus five days a week with a prep/planning “flex” day scheduled for Fridays.
    • Charter schools in the iConnect Zone will operate according to the plans established at each charter school location. Charter school plans are available at the school as well as on the school website. 

    Supporting Data

    Our plan reflects county and district health data with improving levels and beneficial trends. On the key population health measures, this is the status as of Friday (9/4) morning:

    Public Health Data from El Paso County and District 49 as of September 4

    • Key Measure #1:  14-Day Incidence per 100,000 *Lower is better

    Rating:  Acceptable Level with Improving Trend

    The case rate has declined from a high of 157, to today’s level of 65. While still in the “High” range (50-100) it is significant that we are below the “Very High” band and well on our way toward medium. The level is still a concern, but the trend is improving. If we continue the trajectory of declining cases, we will cross under the 50-case benchmark into the medium band sometime in mid-September—just as D49 returns to in-person learning for 3-12th grade. Of note, El Paso County measured 1,157 active (contagious stage) cases on July 27. One month later, that number is down to 466.  CAVEAT: Regional return-to-school dynamics and the Labor Day holiday will almost certainly impact the levels and trends, so we anticipate the positive trend may slow down, flatten out, or even reverse slightly. We will be monitoring very closely.

    • Key Measure #2: Daily PCR Test Positivity (14-Day Average) *Lower is better

    Rating:  Very Good Level with Stable Trend

    The test positivity rate is at 3.69% today, under the public health target (maximum) of 5%. We want that number lower, so being under 5% is good. The long-term trend and level are both positive. CAVEAT: The new testing site at the Citadel Mall might cause some daily spikes to this measure as more people are tested.

    • Key Measure #3: Community Health Agency Capacity

    Rating:  Very Good Level with Stable Trend

    This measure is a composite of hospitalization and death rates, which reveal the intensity of infectious spread and resulting illness. Over the last 14 days, EPC has tracked 28 hospitalizations and 6 deaths, numbers that, while concerning and tragic, are well within the county’s health capacity to care and support. The county only recently (9/3) began reporting an overall measure and rating for hospital capacity, which provides more specific and accurate information for our decisions.

    • District Incident Data

    Rating:  Acceptable Level with Improving Trend

    Over the past 14 days District 49 has tracked and traced 3 incidents of confirmed COVID-19 infections at our district-operated and chartered schools within district boundaries. Although we have hundreds of staff and students in our schools daily, we have not tracked a single incident of transmission at a district school or other facility. We continue to follow best practices for tracking, reporting, and precautionary quarantines consistent with public health guidelines.


    49 Voices for High School and Middle School

    In addition, in the past week we gathered input on our secondary return to learn proposals from our staff and middle and high school families through two robust conversations hosted by the crowdsourcing platform Thought Exchange, receiving more than 2,000 original thoughts from approximately 1,200 and 1,400 participants respectively. Just over half of those participants in both conversations rated thoughts, showing their support for comments that align with their perspectives about our approach to return to in-person learning. The thoughts and ratings aggregate into the following general themes:  

    • Support Plan For In-Person Learning

    Comments in this theme generally supported the general idea of returning to in-person learning either as soon as possible or on a gradual basis as described in the plan. Many who support in-person learning also support the option for some families to choose E-learning. Many of the concepts that informed this plan were derived from suggestions and comments collected during August Thought Exchange sessions with families and staff, especially a frequent recommendation to adopt a hybrid or blended model as we transition back to full-time, in-person learning.

    • Plan Is Unclear, Inconsistent Or Complicated

    Comments in this theme observe aspects of the plan that are complicated or unclear--especially aspects of attending based on cohorts in a rotating schedule. Although individual school plans and even individual student schedules will add clarity, there is no question that a transitional configuration (hybrid or blended) will be more complicated than a configuration of 100% E-learning or 100% in-person learning. We believe that complexity is a necessary constraint permitting a more cautious and gradual return to in-person learning. Many comments in this theme call for an immediate and absolute return to full-time, full-population, in-person learning, but we judge that a graduated return will be safer and more sustainable than a full-scale launch.

    • COVID-19 Health Concerns

    Most of the comments in this theme echo larger community concerns about the spread, severity, or prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most intense objections under this theme correlate strongly with families that intend to remain in E-learning for the full semester, so the theme validates our plan to continue offering a fully online E-learning option.

    • Hybrid Learning Is Too Problematic

    A majority of the comments in this theme (which was both the top number and top-rated theme overall) observe the difficulty of teaching to a dual audience of in-person and online students. Participants pointed out the challenges associated with managing in-person and online classrooms at the same time. Some described the challenges of teaching, parenting, and working while managing rotating schedules. Many of the examples addressed the limitations on performing arts, science labs, or specialized instruction. We do not disagree that a blended model will limit options and quality for some learning activities, which is why we are planning and positioning this as a transition plan, aimed at returning us to full-time, full-population, in-person learning. While undesirable, we consider those limitations a necessary tradeoff to begin our return to in-person learning. Others, especially teachers, pointed out that effective instructional methods for online learning differ from effective methods for in-person learning. In our responses, we grant that hybrid learning presents instructional and scheduling challenges. It is not the model we advocate for large-scale instruction. However, we believe the hybrid model is a safe and necessary transitional form as we return to a primary mode of in-person learning.

    • Recommend An Alternative Proposal 

    A limited, but significant number of comments suggested an alternative way of forming cohorts, or rotating class schedules. Some of the suggestions address student and teacher cohorts, while others recommended different schedules to separate students into small-size cohorts.


    Overall Report: We value your feedback and we have used it to refine our proposal into a return to learn plan. Although Thought Exchange limits responses to 600 characters for each thought, we engaged and provided deeper context by responding to the ten top-rated thoughts in each conversation. You are welcome to view all the thoughts as well as our responses to top thoughts by following the links below:

    HS Conversation:  https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/a2187ed3fb52164a3f1ae66c9c46bdc9

    MS Conversation  https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/242901aa4d475ea0862374de99e1f1a6


  • Dear D49 Families, 

    We are pleased to announce School District 49 will provide meals at no cost for all learners through December. This is an official extension of the service that began at the outset of E49 this spring, which is fully supported by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. D49 will continue to offer grab-and-go meals for families who choose to learn remotely. 

    We will provide grab-and-go meals from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday at the following locations through Sept. 11 (excluding Sept. 4 and 7): 

    Starting Sept. 14, families who choose remote learning will soon have the opportunity to order meals ahead of time at the nutrition services webpage and to select the most convenient pick up location. Families with students at multiple schools may pick up all meals at the school of your choice. We will be sending out the reservation website information soon. 

    And a reminder, We will not be offering meal service Friday, Sept. 4, and Monday, Sept. 7, due to the Labor Day holiday.

    Thank you for your time and attention. Please continue to watch our regular channels of communication for updates, and email questions to Monica Deines-Henderson at md-h@d49.org 



    Monica Deines-Henderson

    Director of 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

  • Masks: FAQs


  • Special BOE Meeting - July 27, 2020

  • COVID-19 School Guidance from Public Health

  • Masks Required for All Students, Staff and Guests

  • D49 Mask Culture

  • Nutrition Services: free and reduced meal plan

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