School district unveils draft reopening plan

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    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    On Tuesday, Archuleta School District began unveiling its draft plan for reopening schools this fall and receiving feedback on it, beginning with district staff and the Board of Education (BOE).

    Next Tuesday, July 21, the district will hold a pair of parent meetings regarding the plan.

    The draft plan is available on the district’s website, www.mypagosaschools.com.

    “Our families are trusting us to build a really good plan,” Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza told the BOE Tuesday.

    The superintendent told the board that, as of the meeting, 480 parents had responded to the district’s parents survey and 133 staff members had returned their survey.

    In presenting information related to the draft plan, LeBlanc-Esparza noted the draft was based on the current guidance available from the Colorado Department of Education and public health agencies, though updated guidance for schools was expected Wednesday morning.

    Board feedback on the plan touched upon determining and documenting students meeting state requirements and curriculum, giving teachers time to transition between learning modules if necessary, ensuring communications with families, risk and benefits for staff related to COVID-19 such as sick days, the district’s plan for students from New Mexico who live under different state orders, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and more.

    The 10-page draft includes an overview, considerations for reopening school, and information on proposed learning models, social and emotional learning support, targeted health precautions, safe learning spaces and healthy practices, transportation, nutrition services, potentially high-risk activities, communications with families, and a summary.

    “The goal of this plan is to address district-wide processes, procedures and instructional models. Following our district process, each school will convene a work group to develop appropriate plans and procedures specific to that school. Those plans will also be shared with families and the community,” the overview states.

    The plan notes that the district will work with national, state and local recommendations and acknowledges that the information and guidelines built into the plan are likely to change.

    “While many of our staff and families are hopeful for an in-person school experience, we recognize that in-person learning may not be the fit for every family. Our district will offer an online option for those who are interested. No matter which option is best for you and your family, we are committed to working with you to ensure your child has a positive, engaging, supportive educational experience,” the overview reads.

    The plan lays out four proposed learning models: extensive online learning, targeted in-person instruction with mostly online learning, blended learning that would likely include students attending school in person a portion of the week and engage in online learning at home the other days of the week, and primarily in-person learning.

    “We will adhere to the appropriate models based on phases defined by the governor’s office and the Colorado Department of Health,” the document states, with LeBlanc-Esparza telling the BOE Tuesday how the district starts the school year will depend on health orders in place at the time.

    Families will also have the choice between in-person or online instruction, which LeBlanc-Esparza noted would be through an available online model paid for by the district.

    In terms of health and safety practices, the draft document outlines things including, but not limited to:

    • Temperature screenings and COVID-19 screening questions.

    • Strongly recommending face coverings for staff and students.

    • Maintaining social distancing with at least 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible, with staff expected to have a face covering if that distance is not possible.

    • Teaching students appropriate handwashing techniques.

    • Providing opportunities for students to wash hands or use sanitizer throughout the day.

    • Each student will be expected to have his or her own supplies and materials.

    • Each student will be issued a Chromebook for use at the school.

    • Lockers will not be used for the upcoming school year.

    • Communal water fountains will be disconnected and students will be asked to bring a refillable water bottle from home.

    • “To the maximum extent possible, we will limit the number of personal interactions a student experiences throughout the school day. For example, traffic flow will be designed so that students may maintain appropriate social distance and avoid face-to-face interactions.”

    • “Any recesses and/or student breaks will be staggered to ensure the number of students in a designated area meets current guidelines.”

    • “Custodians will engage in deep cleaning and sanitizing as per CDC and Colorado Department of Education guidelines.”

    • There will be no community use of the facilities due to cleaning and sanitizing needs.

    • No outside visitors will be allowed, and parents will not be able to eat lunch.

    “Providing transportation to our students will be a unique and ongoing challenge,” the plan notes.

    The plan notes that a typical school bus has capacity for 60-78 riders.

    “During this COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes incredibly challenging due to the close proximity of seating and need for ongoing cleaning measures,” the plan states before laying out transportation-related guidelines, which include cleaning and sanitizing after each run, social distancing, masks, assigned seats and more.

    LeBlanc-Esparza noted during the meeting that 52.73 percent of people who took the survey stated their child(ren) would not ride school transportation.

    Parent meetings

    The parent meetings will be held on Tuesday, July 21, and a draft plan for opening schools this fall is slated to be presented.

    The meetings will be held at 5:30 and 7 p.m., with both meetings taking place virtually via Zoom — a change from what the district previously announced.

    Those looking to attend either meeting are required to RSVP to Robyn Bennett at rbennett@pagosa.k12.co.us or by calling 264-2228, ext. 5401 to obtain access information.