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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.

Sincerely, 

Peter Hilts
Chief Education Officer

Brett Ridgway
Chief Business Officer

Pedro Almeida
Chief Operations Officer