Local schools close, move to online learning in response to COVID-19 pandemic


By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer
With Archuleta School District (ASD) closing school for students and staff on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Superintendent Linda Reed gave an update to The SUN on March 17 via email on how the district is handling the situation.
ASD announced on March 15 that the district would be in session and operating under its regular schedule on March 16, according to ASD’s website.
However, on March 17, the district would begin “distance learning” for its students, according to ASD’s website.
This closure extends into the week of March 23, which is the district’s spring break, the district’s website states.
Currently, ASD is planning on having staff and students report to the buildings on March 30, Reed explained in her email.
“We have communicated to parents and staff to monitor their email towards the end of spring break to see if those plans are still in place,” Reed wrote.
However, due to the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASD is being vigilant and will follow directions from national, state and or local governments as they are received, Reed added.
In conjunction with San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH), ASD made the determination to close school, Reed explained.
“I was in regular communication with the director of San Juan Basin Health during last week and over the weekend. Because there were no active cases, we were trying to follow the guidelines that were established at the state level,” Reed wrote.
From those communications, and seeing developments at the national and state level that occurred last weekend, Reed contacted SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon on the possibility of switching to “distance learning,” she explained.
Additionally, Reed explained she discussed this idea with ASD Board of Education President Brooks Lindner.
Teacher teams by grade level at the elementary and middle schools and by department at the high school began working on this type of “distance learning” on March 13, Reed explained.
“Yesterday, we brought in additional staff to provide support to teachers so they could further refine and prepare materials to send home with students,” she wrote. “Those students who were in school yesterday, took home a variety of instructional materials, depending on the grade level that included a chromebook and charger.”
Parents of students who were not in school on March 16 were allowed to pick up materials for their children on March 17, according to Reed.
“Because the students are already familiar with multiple platforms, including in kindergarten, there didn’t seem to be too much confusion or concern,” she wrote. “I was able to visit all schools and almost all teachers yesterday and everyone seemed very confident of their ability to connect with their students through distance learning.”
With school being canceled, ASD has been and will continue to implement the “highest level of cleaning care.”
“We are in constant communication with the supplier of our cleaning materials regarding any new products that are available and our custodial staff participated in a refresher training on March 6th when schools were closed after parent teacher conferences,” she wrote.
ASD will continue standard practice for cleaning buses as well, Reed explained.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), any school within the state that has a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member or student will have to close for a minimum of 72 hours for cleaning and social distancing.
“Any school with a second confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff or student within a 30 day period requires a second minimum 72 closure for cleaning, testing and public health investigation,” according to CDPHE’s website.
Any school with three confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 30-day period are required to close for a minimum of 14 days, CDPHE’s website reads.
“Last week, we would have followed the 72 hour protocol from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Reed wrote, noting that the decision to move to “distance learning” was supported by Jollon.
After-school activities are currently in a “holding pattern,” Reed described.
If school were to remain closed for an extended period of time, Reed explained that ASD will still work with parents and students to implement “distance learning.”
“NO determinations have been made about how to address extended closures of schools due to this. At around 10:30 today, we got word from CDE Communications that CMAS has been cancelled for this year,” Reed wrote. “CDE is working with College Board on PSAT/SAT which is what high school students take. The fact that these exams are often required for scholarship applications, this is slightly different than CMAS.”
The administration of end-of-the-year assessments, including the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), will be paused for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to extensive school closures throughout Colorado to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes announced Tuesday in a press release.
“With the extraordinary actions we are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s clear that we need to press pause on our CMAS tests this year,” Anthes said. “Students and educators need to feel a sense of stability and normalcy before state tests can be administered and produce valid results. This also means we plan to pause our school and district state accountability system as it relates to state assessments for a year.”
The Colorado Department of Education’s accountability system is also on hold for this year, Reed noted.
“I applaud Commissioner Anthes and the State Board of Education for making this decision, in light of the situation,” Reed wrote.
ASD’s commitment is to compensate its employees whether they are hourly or salaried, Reed wrote.
District custodians will be cleaning while food service staff and bus drivers will be preparing and delivering food to its students, Reed explained.
“Teachers and paraprofessionals will be working with students, just in a different way than we normally do,” she wrote.
ASD is currently doing the best it can for its staff, students and families during a stressful situation, Reed explained.
“As I said in my communication to both staff and parents, please give people grace. Everyone is working incredibly hard to meet the needs of children in incredibly unusual circumstances,” she wrote. “I’d also like to commend our entire staff for going far beyond what is expected. I couldn’t be more proud of the team with which I get to work.”
Food service
According to a separate email from Reed, from March 17 through March 20, ASD’s Food Service department will prepare breakfast and lunch meals for children 18 and younger.
Meals are available to be picked up from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at each school, according to Reed’s email.
“In addition, meals will be delivered by the transportation department to the regularly scheduled bus stops during the morning routes,” Reed’s email explains. “Students or their parent/ guardians may pick up the meals at the time their children would normally be picked up by the bus. Our intention is to provide healthy food to all students during this uncertain time.”
Office hours
ASD’s administration office and school office’s will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through March 20, according to Reed’s email.
From March 23 through March 27, school offices will be closed but the district’s administrative office will be open during regular hours, Reed’s email notes.
Pagosa Peak Open School
From March 16 through spring break, Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) will be closed, according to a letter from PPOS School Director Angela Crossland.
“The shift from our project-based learning model to remote learning will be a big one for our staff, students, and families,” the letter reads. “During the remote learning time, we will provide a mixture of both paper-based activities as well as online resources and class instruction. As these resources are developed by staff they will be rolled out to families.”
Support for families will be available through Zoom meetings, office hours and on and offline educational resources, Crossland’s letter explains.
“As a reminder, this is an evolving situation and we foresee this as the first of many communications to come,” the letter reads. “We are working on a protocol for families to retrieve any items that their students may have within the school that are necessary during these times.”