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January 2021 Return to School Plan

January 2021 Return to School Plan
Posted on 12/18/2020

Thank you for your patience as we determined our plan for the return to in-person learning. We know that in-person learning is best for children to meet their academic, social, and emotional needs. On June 17, 2020, Jeffco’s Board of Education passed a resolution directing staff to restore in-person learning to the greatest extent possible aligned with guidance from Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH). We have shared with you from the beginning that our intent is to offer as much in-person learning as possible this school year as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is with these directives and goals, that we share with you our return to school plan for after winter break. We will continue to follow public health guidance and safety protocols and monitor an additional metric, measuring staff absenteeism rates, to ensure that schools can operate effectively and safely. It takes all members of a school’s building staff - educators, office professionals, food service workers, custodial staff, educational support professionals, and school leaders - to ensure a safe and robust learning environment. Our ability to establish the plan below will depend on reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community and maintaining our staffing levels both within schools and across district operations.

School in January will begin in remote learning

While we are fully committed to return to in-person learning, there are serious concerns about a potential surge in the spread of the virus following the winter break. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) has advised us to provide for a 14-day incubation period prior to opening our schools for in-person instruction to avoid virus spread which could lead to immediate quarantines. Therefore, we will begin the semester in remote learning on our current weekly schedule, and then implement a staggered reopening plan to ensure the sustainability of in-person instruction and avoid interruption due to virus spread or major quarantines.

Once we are back to in-person learning, our plan is to maintain this model for the rest of the school year, unless the COVID-19 dial goes to Level Purple. Going forward, we will temporarily change learning models on a school-by-school basis from in-person to remote or quarantine groups as needed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Return to In-Person Learning Plan

graphic showing return to school plan and dates

Notes about implementing Hybrid learning for grades 6-12

  • The district will continue to monitor virus activity, quarantines, and CDPHE and JCPH advisories about in-person activities. We will continue to assess the start date for grades 6-12 and make the earliest decision possible to begin the start of Hybrid learning.
  • The virus impacts older students disproportionately due to higher transmission and contraction rates.
  • Secondary schedules often do not allow for use of cohorting as a mitigation strategy.
  • The return to a Hybrid model for grades 6-12 is supported by public health officials when Jefferson County reaches Level Orange on the COVID status dial OR with improving metrics in Level Red. The following will also need to be met:
    • K-5 schools are operationally stable.
    • Jefferson County demonstrates a plateau in case incident rates followed by a decline.
    • Schools will use Targeted Contact Identification (TCI) Criteria, seating charts, six feet of social distancing, and require masks as mitigation strategies.

Other Key Information 

  • Food Services: The district will continue to provide free meals to all students (PreK-12) through the end of the 2020-21 school year. More information about current Grab & Go Meal Distribution sites is available here. Details about meal service in January will be provided prior to the return to school.
  • Transportation Services: The district is adapting ridership plans to align with the return to in-person learning at the various grade levels and programs. More information will be provided prior to the return to school.
  • Athletics & Activities: Jeffco Public Schools follows Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) and local and state public health guidance. CHSAA Season B athletics are anticipated to begin January 25. Information about practice schedules and activities will be communicated as soon as it is available.

We Ask Our Community to Come Together

What can the Jefferson County community do to support in-person learning in January?

Continue to Follow All Health and Safety Protocols from Public Health Entities
Our ability to offer in-person learning depends on reducing the spread of COVID-19. We ask everyone in our community to be vigilant about wearing a mask, washing your hands, practicing social distancing, and celebrating the holidays with those in your household and limiting large gatherings with those outside your household. Stay home if you are ill, and get tested if you experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Advocate for Education
Governor Polis stated publicly he believes schools are safe and should be open for in-person learning. While this statement of support is appreciated, we would also like to see actions to go along with it. Jeffco Public Schools and other metro-area districts are working to engage with the Governor’s Back-To-School Task Force to address the obstacles to in-person learning. Consider reaching out to the Governor’s Office and encourage him to:

  • Prioritize school district employees to receive a vaccine after healthcare workers, first responders, and those who are immunocompromised/high risk. This would significantly increase our ability to have enough staff members available to work in schools every day regardless of sustained COVID-19 spread in the community.
  • Provide additional funding and resources to school districts to cover the additional costs, revenue losses, and additional equipment expenses associated with supporting schools and students throughout this pandemic.
  • Waive the CDE application licensing and background check fees for applications for new substitute teachers.
  • Continue to provide free or low-cost testing throughout our community and ensure faster turnaround of COVID-19 test results.

Become a Substitute Teacher, Bus Driver, Custodian, or Food Service Worker
Many of our challenges during in-person learning in the first semester were due to staffing issues related to the quarantine protocols, as well as the spread of the virus and illness. We invite our community to join the Jeffco staff by applying to be a substitute teacher or fill a full-time position as a bus driver, food service worker, or other open positions. Review our overall jobs website here, and learn more about substitute positions here.

In Closing. . .

We know that our plan for January will not make everyone happy. Some want schools to return to 100% in-person learning immediately, others want us to wait even longer than our plan. We have met with hundreds of stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, support staff, and administrators over these past weeks to review the plan and gather feedback. We believe what we have put forward here is the most reasonable, safe, and sustainable way to get our students and staff back to in-person learning.

These many months navigating the pandemic have impacted all of our lives in different ways and we will continue to feel its effects for a long time. Many of us have been juggling caregiving, work, and home responsibilities in new ways. Some of us have been doing all these things while we are struggling with illness and grieving the loss of a loved one, friend, or acquaintance. While the reality of a vaccine has provided an endpoint in the future, we are not there quite yet. During this holiday season and the weeks ahead, let us maintain our sense of love, kindness, and hope to make life more tolerable, in this difficult time.
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