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Update on In-Person Learning

Tonight, during a special meeting of the Board of Education, we updated our reintroduction plans. All students will now have the opportunity to return to in-person learning before the end of this month

Dear Boulder Valley Families and Students,

This week our very youngest learners returned to our schools and it was wonderful to see all of those little preschool faces back in the classroom. The excitement has been in the air as our first round of students have returned to in-person learning.

Knowing the importance of in-person learning and the support our schools provide our kids – far beyond academics – we have been working diligently to expand the opportunity to return to in-person learning to all students who need and want it.

Tonight, during a special meeting of the Board of Education, we updated our reintroduction plans. All students will now have the opportunity to return to in-person learning before the end of this month.

In this email:

  • Update from Boulder County Public Health

  • Home Learning improving, but students are still struggling

  • Our updated reintroduction plan

  • It takes all of us working together

 

Update from Boulder County Public Health
Before we discuss the plans, we do want to share an update regarding the situation with COVID-19. This evening Boulder County Public Health gave us an update, sharing that the measures to address the surge of cases at the University of Colorado are working and cases are dropping.

Yesterday, Public Health put two new Public Health Orders in place to ensure we’re able to maintain and decrease the current level of new cases of COVID in the community. The Gathering Order includes four levels for gatherings among 18-22-year-old individuals in the City of Boulder based on COVID metrics that will be assessed weekly. As transmission decreases, young adults will be able to participate in more activities. If transmission increases, permitted activities will be limited again. The second Order requires collegiate group homes (e.g. sororities and fraternities) to submit an isolation and quarantine plan so they are prepared to quickly stop the spread of disease when a roommate becomes ill.

By waiting and taking a cautious and staggered approach to the return of our students, we have been able to get a better understanding of the situation. We anticipated that a spike was likely once CU students returned and we are glad that it is back under control. We also were curious about what would happen when school districts returned to learning. We’ve been monitoring the situation in school districts across the state to learn how to best proceed. 

While there are cases from time to time that prompt the quarantining of groups of students and staff – which you’ve likely heard in the news -- what we are hearing from our counterparts in other school districts is that the same measures we have in place have been incredibly effective at keeping COVID-19 from spreading. 

Additionally, we have seen this first-hand here in BVSD. As you may recall, we brought students back into our buildings back in March for emergency childcare and expanded the program as we started the school year in August. High school students have been participating in athletics and activities at our schools since the summer. Periodically we have had a small number of staff members and/or students on quarantine, after reports of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. The system has been working as expected, these small groups have been isolated to prevent any spread of the disease.

It is time to build upon this success and to move forward with the return of students.

Home Learning improving, but students are still struggling
It is also time to return to in-person learning because we know many of our students are struggling with remote learning.

This week we have received the preliminary results from the survey that we sent out to families about their experience with Home Learning. Our outstanding teachers have gone above and beyond to connect with and support students remotely and their efforts are being noticed by families. More parents (75% in October, compared to 60% in May) are indicating that their schools are doing a better job of setting high and realistic expectations for students. About 80 percent of families agreed or strongly agreed that their child had clear directions about what to work on, was engaged in academic work every day and that the work was realistic to accomplish and grade level appropriate. Parents also reported receiving more communication about their child’s academic progress (65% in October versus 55% in May).

Overall, however, the survey results indicated that they are understandably worried about their child’s academic progress and how well both whole and small group instruction is going.

It is important to recognize that this pandemic will not last forever and we are confident that we will be able to provide supports after the crisis so that students can make up any lost ground. That being said, we are absolutely concerned that while our teachers are working harder than ever before to deliver high quality online instruction, this mode of learning is not working for many of our students – another reason why we believe it is important to safely return students to in-person learning, as soon as possible.
 

Our updated reintroduction plan
As you know, on September 22 we received the second round of recommendations from our Working Advisory Group, which suggested a staggered and differentiated return of all students.

Over the past couple of weeks my team has been working closely with our district staff and school leaders to work through the feasibility of those recommendations, as well as working to incorporate their suggestions as we look to move forward.

The result is the plan that we shared with the Board of Education tonight.  This plan maintains the spirit of the original recommendations made by the Working Advisory Group, while accelerating and expanding these opportunities for students.

Elementary
As shown in the diagram below, we are now planning to return the remainder of our elementary students to school on October 20. Grades 3-5 will have the opportunity to attend in-person four days a week. 

Secondary
Students in transitional grades (6th and 9th grade) will also return on October 20. The remainder of our middle and high school students will return on October 27. 


Middle School students will attend two-days a week in a blended model. 

High school students will remain in the planned one-day a week schedule in an effort to keep cohort sizes smaller. Under this plan, only a fourth of students would need to be quarantined if there is a case, instead of half (Phase 3) or all students (Phase 4). 

Please know we remain committed to doing what is best for students and are not finished. We will continue to explore opportunities to safely expand in-person learning for all students – especially our high school students.

Students will be notified of the days they are assigned to attend on October 16.


 

Home Learning
Students that are not interested or unable to return to school will continue to have the opportunity to learn remotely. If you haven’t already, and wish to opt-out of in-person learning, please do so in Infinite Campus by following these instructions by October 13. 

Transportation
Busing is being prioritized for students in special education and elementary students. We are exploring the feasibility of offering bussing to middle school students. We plan to have an update by October 26.

At this time, given the impacts of the current health guidelines, we know we will not be able to provide normal bus service to all of our eligible high school students. We are, however, exploring the feasibility of providing targeted transportation to students who need it most. Meanwhile, the BVSD Transportation team will be working with the high schools to encourage alternative transportation options including RTD, biking and walking, where possible.

Child Care
We will continue to offer child care for students; however, we will offer more traditional programming as students return to in-person learning.

  • Standard before and after School Age Care (SAC) programs for Grades K-5 will begin October 20. Full day programming on Tuesday-Friday will no longer be offered. 

  • The final day for middle School grades 6-8 Full Day Child Care will be October 19. 

  • Standard before and after School Age Care (SAC) programs operating in K-8 schools will accept K-8 students beginning on October 20.

  • Monday full day care will remain an option for students in SAC programs at select elementary and K-8 schools as staffing and enrollment permits. 

  • CMS Preschool Child Care will follow a Monday-Friday bell-to-bell school day schedule. Half and full day programming will be offered at the following locations: Heatherwood, Meadowlark, Eisenhower, and Nederland. 

  • Early Connections Infant and Toddler Care @ ARHS will continue to operate under our regular published schedule.

Rates reflect a return to in-person learning and are available on our website or can be found here. For more detailed information on our child care programs, please visit https://childcare.bvsd.org/. Email bvsd.childcare@bvsd.org with any questions.

It takes all of us working together to #StayTogetherBVSD
As we have shared previously, we have a layered approach when it comes to the safety of our staff and students during this pandemic. Learn more on our Health Precautions page.

We do want to remind everyone that we all play a role in whether or not we are able to bring back our students and whether our schools will remain open. Limiting interactions and taking simple health precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing when you are out-and-about are effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID19. Monitoring other school districts, it is often social gatherings outside of school that lead to the largest quarantines.

Learn more
We will be hosting our Let’s Talk Education show for families next Thursday, October 15 at 4:00p.m. Tune in to Comcast Channel 22 or livestream at bvsd.org/bv22. Submit any questions you have via this formYou can also view our FAQs on our website here.

 

Let’s all work together to bring and keep us Back Together BVSD.

 

Sincerely,

Rob Anderson
Superintendent
Boulder Valley School District