In only five weeks, Englewood Schools will allow students to return to in-person learning. But, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, parents can also choose a remote-learning option. The …
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In only five weeks, Englewood Schools will allow students to return to in-person learning. But, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, parents can also choose a remote-learning option.
The Englewood School Board approved plans for returning to school at a July 14 board meeting. The plans have been in the works for over a month as the school district assembled a task force of teachers, district administrators and principals to create the framework for the upcoming school year.
Parents will have to decide whether they prefer in-person or remote learning for their children by Aug. 3 in anticipation of the first day of school on Aug. 27.
“It's going to be a very personal choice for our families,” said Englewood Schools Superintendent Wendy Rubin at a July 16 virtual town hall where the school district discussed its return-to-school plans with district staff.
Englewood's return to in-person learning plan for students is a 36-page document that details safety precautions the district will enforce and acknowledges that it expects in-person learning to have to maneuver to remote at times.
Among the highlights of the plans include provisions that will require students and staff members returning to in-person learning to have daily wellness checks like temperature checks and brief wellness questions.
All students and staff will also be required to wear face coverings — as required by the state when Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide mask-wearing order on July 16. The school district will provide reusable masks to students and staff.
Englewood School Board Treasurer Steven Leflar, who has three children in elementary school and one in middle school in Englewood, said masks have been politicized, and he doesn't want politics to play a role when it comes to safety.
“At the end of the day, my concern would be is making sure the masks are there and tracing. If there's an outbreak, we have to be able to get notified correctly,” said Leflar. He added that he understands there is fear and said he believes Rubin and Englewood School leaders have the best interest of the district.
Englewood Schools will place students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms in an isolated room until parents are able to take their child away from the school. School nurses will be trained in contact-tracing to assist identifying students, families or schools with any concerns, according to the plan.
The district will also actively monitor school attendance to understand potential trends in symptoms for a child missing school.
One positive case in a school will result in a 72-hour closure. If three positive cases occur in a school, the building will be closed for two weeks.
Students will be assigned to cohorts, or groups, to lessen exposure and to assist contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 case. Passing periods will be limited by teachers moving to students. Desks in classrooms will be spread out to practice social distancing.
Englewood Schoolboard President Caty Husbands said she believes it will be achievable to practice social distancing in classrooms. She said from what the school district has seen so far, as far as parents making the choice between online and in-person learning, classrooms will have enough space to social distance.
The district is encouraging its schools to utilize the outdoors for learning. All elementary schools in Englewood have outdoor classrooms. The Englewood Campus, which is home to Englewood Middle School and Englewood High School, and Colorado's Finest High School of Choice all have some classrooms with garage doors that open up to create an indoor and outdoor space. Colorado's Finest also has a courtyard that classes can access.
Electives like choir and physical education will continue and adhere to social distancing. The plan reads that students will be encouraged to video themselves performing band instruments and singing. Class time will be used for review and individual instruction. Physical education classes will be held outdoors and may contain elements of remote learning.
Students are expected to be kept in cohorts when utilizing playgrounds and fields. There will be a limited use of playground equipment that will be sanitized frequently, and students will be taught and encouraged to participate in touch-free activities like hopscotch, kicking a soccer ball, jumping rope and more.
The school district is encouraging parents to take their children to school, but it is planning to take precautions for those who utilize school buses. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed on buses and brief wellness screenings will occur every morning on bus routes. Attendance will be taken every day on buses in an effort to trace potential COVID-19 cases. After each school bus run, cleaning efforts will take place.
“(School buses are) a priority. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide the choice that works best for our families and teachers in the situation, and that includes providing transportation for kids who need it to get to school because that is what works best for them,” said Husbands.
Breakfast and lunch will be served each day to students and social distancing will take place in cafeterias rather than classrooms. Rubin said at a July 17 townhall for parents that it is easier to disinfect and clean cafeterias.
“We don't want to create 20 little cafeterias all over the school building,” she said at the townhall.
Englewood Schools plans to institute synchronous and asynchronous learning techniques for those who choose to learn virtually. Synchronous learning will involve teachers and students collaborating, teaching, learning and interacting through Zoom. Asynchronous learning will entail student-directed and independent learning.
Grading will be identical to how grades operate in a normal education environment. Students enrolled in online learning will be expected to participate and submit assignments on time.
In May, Englewood Schools surveyed staff and parents about their opinions about returning to school this fall. Out of 719 responses, 78% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that students should return to in-person learning in the fall as long as safety plans are in place.
COVID-19 cases have recently increased in Colorado. The state reported an increase of cases from 38,155 cases on July 15 to 38,726 cases on July 16.
Englewood Schools will host a virtual townhall for Spanish-speaking parents on July 23 at 9 a.m. The return to school plan, remote learning plan and the link to the town hall can be found at englewoodschools.net/return-2020.
“My main concern is keeping everyone safe, and I think we are working tirelessly with local and state health officials and folks from the department of education as well as our community to provide the safest possible environment. That is going to include masks, that is going to include social distancing, and it's going to include frequent sanitizing,” said Husbands.
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