Aspen students returning from weeklong spring break trips must show negative COVID-19 test, district says |

Aspen students returning from weeklong spring break trips must show negative COVID-19 test, district says

District will offer free testing April 5 at Aspen Middle School

Arden Kaywin, right, looks back at Wesley Lodal, 7, self-administering a COVID-19 in the backseat of their car at Aspen Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The Aspen School District will require all students and staff who leave Pitkin County for eight or more days during the upcoming spring break to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to in-person learning, Superintendent David Baugh announced Tuesday night.

“Obviously we’re still in the middle of this global pandemic,” Baugh said in a video message to the school district community.

“We’re heading into a holiday week, and we’ve always seen a spike after the holidays,” he said.

The traveler advisory adds a new layer to the district’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts and will hopefully prevent massive classroom quarantines after students return from vacation during the Monday to April 4 break. (Students also have April 5 off because it is a teacher work day.)

Free testing will be available April 5 on campus for all school district students, parents and staff; the turnaround for results could be between 15 minutes and 48 hours depending on which tests are used, Baugh said in a phone interview. The district also offers free weekly testing every Tuesday through the district’s testing partner, COVIDCheck Colorado.

Students who seek testing elsewhere can submit their results to an online portal.

Aspen Country Day School, an independent K-8 school, has already announced it will require proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three to five days of the return to in-person learning for all students after spring break, according to a status update posted Friday and the school’s pandemic-related policies document for the 2020-21 academic year.

Students there have been on spring break since Monday and will have access to free on-campus asymptomatic testing April 5 before class resumes April 6.

This is the first time that the district has implemented its own post-travel COVID-19 testing requirement, Baugh said, though a similar countywide program has applied in the past.

The now-inactive Pitkin County Traveler Affidavit Program was still in effect during winter break, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test from any visitor or resident returning after 10 or more days outside the county. Aspen School District’s new traveler advisory is similar but shortened that period to eight or more days because the spring break is only nine days long, Baugh said.

The countywide affidavit program has been replaced by the Traveler Responsibility Code effective March 5; the code does not require proof of a negative test but does ask visitors and returning residents to sign an online form acknowledging current public health travel guidelines.

“We’re excited that we can offer (testing to the school district community) and we’re trying to avoid the massive quarantines,” Baugh said. Though a student may miss one day of in-person learning while awaiting test results from home, that outcome is far preferable to a student testing positive after coming back to school, requiring an entire class to quarantine, Baugh said.

“It’s all part of the community keeping one anther safe,” he said.

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