At the recommendation of Superintendent Ed Smith, the Pueblo County School District 70 board of education on Tuesday unanimously approved the next phase of a return-to-school plan that will see elementary school students return to the classroom starting on Monday.
Middle schoolers, and those who attend Rye High School, are next in line to transition from remote to in-person instruction, with Pueblo County and Pueblo West high schoolers slated to return to the classroom, in a hybrid model, on Oct. 4.
Tuesday’s action caps months of research, study and discussion on the part of the board and district leadership as to the best way to transition students back into the classroom during a pandemic.
Smith prefaced his recommendation by acknowledging those who supported the district as it formulated a workable plan.
"I’d like to thank our parents and our students for their patience and input; our staff members, and particularly our teachers for helping us with this plan and all of their patience and hard, hard work," Smith said.
"I’d like to thank our directors, Mrs. (Ginger) Andenucio, who’s done a great job. And most of all, I’d like to thank Mr. (Greg) Keasling, who really led us through all of this, put this all together and kept this moving for us."
Per the plan, beginning Monday, all students in grades pre-kindergarten through the fifth, as well as those who attend the K-8 Beulah School of Natural Sciences, will return to in-person learning.
District-wide, normal bus routes will begin on Monday, with students undergoing a temperature screening after exiting the bus.
Middle school students will spend next week engaged in on-site orientation related to a return to the classroom. Sixth graders will report to their school on Monday, seventh graders on Tuesday, eighth graders on Wednesday, and all middle schoolers on Thursday.
The week of Sept. 21 also will see students report to Rye High School for orientation, beginning with freshmen on Monday.
Pueblo West and Pueblo County high schoolers will remain in remote learning as schedules and staffing are finalized in anticipation of the resumption of classroom instruction.
By Monday, Sept. 28, all elementary and middle schools, and Rye High School, will be engaged in full in-person instruction. For Pueblo West and Pueblo County high schools, that week will serve as a transition period, with on-site orientation combined with remote learning.
By Oct. 5, and continuing through the end of the semester, Pueblo West and Pueblo County will begin a hybrid schedule, with instruction to be divided between classroom and remote, on on a "two day in, two day out" format.
Parents who want their student(s) to remain in remote learning must complete a Google form sent from the child’s school. Most students who elect to remain in remote learning will be assigned to specific "online" teachers.
As part of the return-to-school plan:
• For anyone entering a building, the wearing of masks is mandatory. Temperature screenings will occur before the students enter the building or at the designated entrances at the building.
• Students with temperatures above the 100.4 degree ceiling will be moved to an area where they can be rescreened. If symptoms mandate, students will be escorted to the health room and appropriate family will be contacted to come and pick up the student.
• Students and staff will be encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible, with physical distancing encouraged at all times. Custodial teams will be cleaning classrooms and high contact areas frequently throughout the day.
• Students or staff members who become ill during the day will be escorted to the health room, with arrangements made for the individual to leave the school.
• Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students will be allowed to wear cap/shields provided by the district. Impacted students with documentation also can wear face shields provided by the district.
• Weather permitting, classes can be held outdoors.
• Lunches will occur in a staggered format. At the elementary level, individual classes will be released one at a time.
At this time, meals are free to all students. Schools will provide meals in multiple locations within the school and students will be spaced at a socially appropriate and staggered level. Students will be encouraged to leave the dining areas once they are finished and move on with their educational day.
• Secondary passing periods will include efficient supervision and quick movement by students into their next class. All staff will help supervise the hallway movement of students.
• Elementary school recess time will occur through a zoning process, which allows for no interaction between classroom cohorts.
• Student pickup from schools will occur only in the "parent loop" through a controlled release.
• The D70 COVID Response Team will continue to monitor staff and students for signs and symptoms of illness. When, or if, a positive case is reported, the team will work in conjunction with local and state health officials and will follow state health guidelines to safely isolate those possible exposures as quickly as possible.
Chieftain reporter Jon Pompia can be reached by email at email@example.com or at twitter.com/jpompia. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the Chieftain at chieftain.com/subscribenow