Dear Team DPS,
Leading with equity means a continued commitment to monitoring our plans and adjusting them to address the needs and safety of our students, families and staff -- particularly our students, families and educators of color. We know that based on our surveys and the current rates of COVID-19, communities of color have been more heavily impacted. With equity in mind, we wanted to share an adjustment to our 2020-21 return plans.
On Thursday I, along with DPS leaders, members of our Board of Education, and DCTA leadership, met with local health experts from Denver Health to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in our community. These health experts shared the most updated modeling they have done on the rates of COVID-19 in Denver. Based on this new data and guidance, we believe it is prudent to delay returning to school in person. DPS will begin the 2020-21 school year with remote learning, with a delayed first day of remote school on Aug. 24 to allow our teachers time to welcome students back remotely. The start date of remote learning for students in charter and innovation schools may be different; please connect with your school directly.
What to expect through Sept. 8
The week of Aug. 17 will be an opportunity for K-12 educators to connect with individual students, to begin building connections and share class expectations, as well as talk about any additional planning and preparation that may be needed during remote learning. It will also allow us to ensure that all students have access to technology and the internet in their homes. Students in concurrent enrollment courses will also begin their higher-education classes this week.
For most students, Aug. 24 will be the first day of remote learning. We will continue to review COVID rates with our health partners. The soonest we would start our gradual return to in-person would be Sept. 8.
Because there is not a remote learning option for district-run early childhood education (ECE) students, unfortunately there will not be any ECE classes until at least Sept. 8. We hope to share more resources for at-home learning with these families soon. Please note, ECE program offerings from DPS charter schools may be different; please check with your school.
Based on immediate health forecasts and the smaller scale of these programs, we will continue our previously scheduled July in-person programs. Summer Athletics can continue outside as planned and will continue to follow Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) standards.
Planning for a safe and gradual return to in-person,
with a continued virtual program option
We learned a lot during the spring’s remote learning, and we have taken feedback and lessons from that time to build a stronger remote learning plan for the upcoming school year. And, we know that there continue to be significant academic and social emotional drawbacks to our students learning remotely. Our priority continues to be reopening our schools for in-person learning when it is safe to do so.
In partnership with our leaders and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) leadership, we will work with health officials who are developing a framework for reopening when it is considered safe for our students and staff by reviewing health trends and making data-based decisions. This will include a plan for phasing from remote learning to in-person with a gradual re-entry.
As with all of our plans, families will have the opportunity to choose a 100% virtual program for the fall semester. Families can make this selection during the Annual Family Update, which opens July 27. More details about this virtual program will be shared on Tuesday, July 21.
Throughout our planning this summer, the safety of our students and staff continues to be our number one priority. It has been challenging to make firm plans, given the changing conditions and I want to thank the team members who have spent the past several weeks creating, updating and adjusting these return scenarios. Because of their hard work, we are going into the school year with three strong plans that we can shift between as health conditions change: fully remote, a hybrid model (based on the recommendations of our educator-led Return to School workgroup and the feedback from family surveys), and fully in-person.
We will continue to work closely with the health department -- as well as our DPS Board of Education, the DCTA and other employee groups -- to find a solution that best protects our students and staff, while also safely balancing the benefits of in-person learning we know are so important for our kids.
Opportunities to share your voice
We know there are still many unanswered questions, and we are working diligently to collaborate with community partners and leaders to find the answers. And we want to hear from you. We will be hosting two Tele Town Halls for all DPS employees: 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 21; and 1 p.m. Thursday, July 23. These hour-long events will be held over the phone, and all employees will receive a phone call from 720-423-3046 to their personal phone number on file inviting them to join. Myself and members of the DPS leadership team, as well as local health officials, will be available to answer your questions. More information about these events will be shared soon.
And Dr. Olson and I will resume Facebook Live sessions Monday-Friday at 10 a.m. in English and 10:30 a.m. in Spanish on the DPS Facebook page to help answer the questions from parents and community members.
In addition to the town halls, team members can email questions about accommodations and leave requests to HR Connect, and send other questions and suggestions about the return to school to CoronavirusInfo@dpsk12.org.
We are all in this together. And doing what’s best for the health and well-being of our students and team members will take a team effort. Please, wear a mask whenever you are outside your home and practice safe, social distancing measures. We are anxious to get our kids back in school and we can all do our part to drive down the spread of the virus. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility as we continue to navigate through these difficult times.