All Jeffco students can return for in-person schooling this fall

District announced restart plan July 8

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On July 8, Jeffco Public Schools announced that all students will have the option to attend school in-person every day next school year.
 
The district’s plan for next year, Restart Jeffco, outlines numerous details of how schools will operate while following health guidelines and limiting the spread of COVID-19. The district had previously announced plans to allow elementary school students back into classrooms full-time, but not the higher grades.
 
Facets of the restart plan include requiring students to be grouped into cohorts for in-person learning; asking students to eat meals in classrooms or other designated areas; prohibiting visitors from entering school buildings; mandating students and staff members to wear face coverings when six feet of physical distancing is not possible; and other protocols.
 
All students from preschool through high school may choose a 100% in-person experience or a 100% remote learning experience.
 
Earlier in the summer, the district was contemplating a hybrid schedule, in which students would only attend in-person one or two days a week and would complete other school days online. On June 19, the district announced that elementary students would be able to return for a full-time in-person experience but that the decision had not yet been made for secondary students.
 
Through an online survey, the district sought to collect feedback from community members about schooling next year as the effects of the pandemic continue. The survey closed June 30.
 
Having heard the initial news, parents are now waiting for more detailed plans from their individual principals, as well as making decisions about what their children’s schooling will look like next year.
 
Sarah Goudie, who has two daughters at Peak Expeditionary School at Pennington in Wheat Ridge, said she plans to send her children back for in-person schooling.
 
“We are looking forward to going back but I know that there is still a lot of anxiety from parents and teachers on how this school year is going to look and fear with this virus,” she said.
 
She highlighted that benefits of being able to send her children to school in-person include returning to routine, more socialization and traditional learning. Drawbacks include the potential challenges when requiring students to physically distance, which could lead to safety concerns, she said.
 
Meanwhile, Tina Galterio, who has one student at Kyffin Elementary in Golden, said the family is leaning toward the remote option for their daughter.
 
“I know that my daughter misses her friends and she does miss school,” Galterio said. “But what I’ve seen is people being irresponsible with public health guidelines. I have neighbors who never quarantined.”
 
Galterio said she worries that if her daughter engages in remote learning only, she’ll be at risk to fall behind her peers who are receiving in-person learning.
 
“It worries me but it doesn’t worry me more than keeping her safe,” she said. She added that she believes the right decision for each family is different; “no path is perfect right now,” she said.
 
Meanwhile, educators likewise are awaiting further information about what the next school year will look like for them.
 
Arvada High School math teacher Elizabeth Kantner, whose daughter and stepson are both secondary students in Jeffco schools, said she and her family have not made up their minds about whether they will return in-person.
 
Her daughter and stepson feel strongly about wanting to meet their classmates and teachers in-person when a new school year begins. However, the family has safety concerns, given that between the three of them, they would be going to and from three different schools each and every day.
 
“Initially, I was a little bit shocked they would announce this. I have a lot of questions,” she said. “It’s heart-breaking; as a teacher, the beginning of the school year is when everyone has hope that things are going to go well. I don’t even know what this is going to look like.”
 
Brooke Williams, president of the district’s teachers union Jefferson County Education Association, JCEA, said that though the announcement has already been made, JCEA plans to sit down with the district to ensure the plan can be safely executed.
 
“When we’re negotiating our memorandum of understanding (MOU), we want to make sure we get a chance to bargain this with the district in a public setting so it is transparent,” she said.
 
A baragining date had not yet been set as of July 9, but Williams said the meeting would occur in late July or early August.
 
“We appreciate the hard work the district has put into this. They have been tasked with the impossible task,” she said. “But we just released a survey to educators (July 8) and we do see a large concern. We don’t want to lose anyone due to unsafe conditions.”
 
Jeffco Public Schools has asked families to fill out a form indicating whether their student will participate in remote or in-person learning and if they will rely on district-provided transportation. The district is also gathering student feedback on the plan through an online survey for fifth- through twelfth-grade students.

Jeffco has also encouraged families to read the plan in full. It is available at restartjeffco.com.

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