This month, Douglas County will get its first official glimpse of plans for reopening the Douglas County School District in the fall, when the district plans to return to in-person learning.
Board directors are set to consider a “reentry and recovery” plan on June 23 after a task force presents its recommendation for starting the 2020-21 school year, along with contingency plans in case the district needs to pivot course amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each situation is going to be different from district to district,” Superintendent Thomas Tucker said.
The district launched its Fall 2020 Planning Task Force at the beginning of June. Nearly 2,000 community members applied to serve on the task force. The district selected 200 applicants to work in focus groups within the task force.
Speaking at the June 9 school board meeting, Tucker said the district has not finalized the plan and was still considering themes emerging in re-entry plans from across the country. Board President David Ray announced June 13 the district plans to return to in-person learning in August, unless the district receives different guidance from the state or Tri-County Health Department.
“The safety and well being of our students and staff remain a top priority, thus we are working with our DCSD Restart & Recovery Task Force to create a restart plan which will guide us in welcoming students back to an ‘as close to normal as possible’ classroom experience in August,” Ray said in a written statement on his Facebook page.
Ray said the district will take safety precautions but that “specific safety precautions have not yet been determined.”
Tucker in the June 9 meeting noted trends he is observing as districts announce their plans. Whether the Douglas County district will require masks, health screenings and temperature checks remains to be seen, he said.
Neighboring district Jeffco Schools shared its plan on May 22 and is collecting input through June. The proposal would require social distancing, and most notably, a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning. Students would complete at least 50% of their school days remotely, according to the plan.
Numerous Jefferson County parents on June 4 urged resuming school as normal. One Douglas County parent urged the Douglas County School Board on June 9 to resume school as normal in August.
A recent Wall Street Journal story described remote education as largely a failure throughout the U.S., as some students lacked computers or internet access, teachers took on remote learning for the first time, and parents were unavailable to help with their children’s schooling.
Tucker cautioned that “this is a very, very fluid situation” and whatever the district approves this month could change by August.
The Douglas County School District’s Chief Academic Officer, Marlena Gross Taylor, said the task force will present recommendations on the calendar year and a staggered reopening.
A staggered schedule has proved to be the biggest point of interest among parents and the community, she said. Gross Taylor said the district will continue planning to provide remote education for students who are at high risk from the novel coronavirus and cannot safely transition back to in-person learning.
“We will have several contingencies, again not knowing where we will be,” she said.
Ray also said in his June 13 statement the district would provide “a robust, comprehensive DCSD eLearning option” at each school for students who prefer to continue learning remotely.
The district will also send a survey to families asking about their “plans and comfort level” with children returning to school in the fall, Ray said.
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