Dear Team DPS,
Yesterday, Mayor Hancock and I shared with the broader Denver community that our health partners are concerned about increasing COVID rates in our city. I want to take a moment to assure you that we’re continuing to monitor closely these troubling rises in COVID spread and positivity rates. I share the concerns, the anxieties, and the frustrations that I hear from our community and our educators. As has been the case since March, conditions and guidance change so frequently. Comfort and anxiety rise and fall so much; there’s very little certainty and stability in our day-to-day lives. What I do know for certain is that all of Team DPS just really wants to teach and care for our kids, in our school buildings.
We will continue our close partnership and daily conversations with our expert partners at Denver Health. Mayor Hancock’s office let us know this afternoon that there will be new public-health orders issued soon to combat the COVID spread in the community and improve conditions for in-person schooling. When these types of measures were implemented in the summer, we saw a dramatic reduction in COVID cases.
In light of these changing conditions, I want to share some updates and decisions with you today based on the latest guidance we’ve received from our health partners:
- Elementary schools will open as planned to all grades next week.
- Middle and high schools will not open for in-person and will continue in remote learning for most students for at least three weeks into the second quarter, through Friday, Nov. 6.
- Secondary special-education center programs, newcomer centers, and remote learning centers are an exception and will open for in-person at the start of the second quarter.
Our health partners assure us that elementary-aged students are at a significantly lower COVID risk, and we all know that remote learning presents special challenges for elementary students and their families. As a result, we feel confident right now in continuing with our plans to open elementary schools to all grades next week. We have the support of experts at Denver Health in that plan.
However, officials at Denver Health have urged more caution in looking at our middle and high schools. Older students have a higher COVID risk, and given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Denver, we have determined that most middle and high school students will continue with remote instruction for the first three weeks of the second quarter -- through Friday, Nov. 6. In-person instruction for middle and high school will be limited to priority students (those served by special-education center programs, newcomer centers, and remote learning centers), as we can provide additional space and personal protective equipment (PPE) to support a safe return to school for them. We will continue to monitor COVID conditions and collaborate with Denver Health to determine if trends improve to a point where we can safely open our middle and high schools for more in-person schooling. We will evaluate the situation again at the end of October, and share more information on next steps with you then.
We will continue to prioritize health and safety above all else, and we will follow health guidance. That’s been our approach since the pandemic started. It comes with shifts and adjustments. It requires agility and perseverance, and I’m incredibly grateful for and energized by how Team DPS has risen to the constant challenges to shift, create, rethink, and adjust -- all without losing focus on our kids.
We know this will be a disappointment for many of our secondary students as well as school leaders and staff, as I know you have been working hard to make plans to safely reopen our doors. This was not an easy decision to make. Yet given our overriding focus on health and safety and the current COVID conditions and guidance we are receiving, we feel this is the right decision.
I encourage all team members to join me on Thursday, Oct. 15, from 4:30-5:30 p.m., when we will be hosting another all-staff Telephone Town Hall for our team members. I will be joined by Dr. Burman and DPS leadership and we will be ready to answer your questions. In the meantime, if you have any questions about how this delay of in-person instruction for middle and high school impacts your role, please ask your supervisor or school leader.