By Randi Pierce
Archuleta School District (ASD) anticipates announcing next Monday, Aug. 17, how students will begin the school year on Sept. 8 — either online only or a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.
“Right now, what we’re waiting on is getting close enough to time on Monday,” ASD Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza told the ASD Board of Education Tuesday. “We have a communication plan built where we will communicate out where we can begin the school year, whether it’s online or whether it’s a hybrid/blended. A hundred percent in person is not realistic because we’re not at Protect our Neighbor. We’re not there yet, so it’s going to have to be one or the other depending on what our data is telling us and what San Juan Basin Health is telling us.”
LeBlanc-Esparza updated the board on the reopening process at its meeting Tuesday evening and answered questions from the board relating to the plan.
The superintendent explained that the decision will be announced Monday because the majority of the state’s current executive orders are set to expire Aug. 15, and the district will know what is extended and what orders will likely be in place at the start of school.
It also, she noted, gives families three weeks before the start of school to plan.
In presenting the plan update, LeBlanc-Esparza outlined, among other information, survey data from two rounds of surveys sent to parents and staff (which included that a majority of respondents continue to be comfortable with face-to-face instruction), the learning models and precautions that will be in place.
She also outlined new guidance received recently concerning the reopening of schools, with those guidelines coming from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those guidelines cover things such as social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, daily screening, cohorting of students and the limits on the number of adults allowed in each classroom per day, face coverings, and controlling outbreaks and mitigation with isolation, quarantine and contact tracing.
Cohorting, she explained, refers to keeping groups of students together to reduce the mixing of students and potential spread of coronavirus.
The guidance on outbreaks and mitigation, she noted, received the most pushback across the state, with some of that language later changed.
She noted later in the meeting that, in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, SJBPH would designate what groups of students would be notified, who would be held out of school and for how long.
Online learning models
LeBlanc-Esparza presented that ASD has both a parent-choice online model and a district-driven online model.
Under the parent-choice online model, for those students who will receive online-only instruction, students will still be ASD students, but they will take classes through Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS), which is working with the majority of districts in the state.
CDLS, she explained, has K-12 availability, includes AP course options at the secondary level and is broken into semesters.
The district-driven online model would be put in place if and when a health phase “dictates a need for families and students to stay at home,” the superintendent’s presentation notes.
In that event, ASD teachers will meet the needs of students, LeBlanc-Esparza told the board.
“Teachers will have access to quality online learning instruction resources to build lessons/units of study,” the presentation reads, adding, “Technology will be used to connect with students virtually on regularly scheduled times.”
The blended/hybrid learning model would include two to four days of in-person education at school each week combined with one to three days of digital, online learning, the presentation explains.
“This model will be utilized when it is safe for students to be educated in person, but there is still a need for additional time to clean and sanitize as well as a need for additional planning in order to serve students with both in-person and digital learning,” the presentation states.
The presentation explains, “The district will assign roughly half of students to a M-T schedule and half to a W-Th schedule. We will ensure that families are assigned to the same in-person days, if there are different last names in a family. Last names A-L will be in the Monday-Tuesday cohort and M-Z will be in the Wednesday-Thursday cohort.”
All students will learn remotely/online on Friday and teachers will use Fridays for professional development and planning.
“We also must use this time for cleaning and sanitizing schools between cohorts of students,” the presentation states.
It adds, “Students defined as at-risk and those served by an IEP may attend schools in-person on Friday to receive specialized services.”
ASD has also created a Web page about what the in-person and online days would look like for each school and what guidance is in place.
That resource is available at: tinyurl.com/y4laud7r.
Health and safety
LeBlanc-Esparza’s presentation outlines a number of precautions: daily screenings, masks, hand-washing, hand sanitizer stations, cleaning and washing high-touch surfaces, one-way hall patterns of traffic, staggered lunches to limit interaction, staggered recess to limit interaction, a schedule to limit the number of adult interactions for kids, no visitors into schools, and no community use of facilities.
The district will use a health screening app for parents to input daily screening data into, the superintendent explained, and temperatures will be taken every day when students arrive at school or before they board a bus.
Later in the presentation, Assistant Superintendent Laura Mijares explained that staff members who may be immunocompromised or who have concerns about returning to work are encouraged to speak with their supervisor and, if needed, submit a request for reasonable accommodation.
LeBlanc-Esparza noted that fewer than 10 percent of staff survey respondents indicated there may be issues, and the district had yet to receive any requests.
LeBlanc-Esparza noted during the meeting that the district has asked if teachers will be prioritized in testing for COVID-19.
Registration is now underway for ASD students and will continue until Sept. 18.
For more information on registering a student, visit the applicable school’s page at www.mypagosaschools.com.
On Tuesday, LeBlanc-Esparza noted that those registering students who are interested in using the online-only option through Colorado Digital Learning Solutions should note the semester runs from Aug. 26-Dec. 17.