Roaring Fork schools announce staggered return to in-class instruction for K-8 students later this month

Peter Baumann
Glenwood Springs Post-Independent

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are slated to return to in-class instruction later this month, a news release from Roaring Fork School District announced Friday.

“Risk levels have improved in Garfield and Eagle counties to Safer Level 1 according to the state’s Covid-19 Dial Dashboard measure of the two week cumulative incidence rate,” the release states. “If this trend continues, the state dial is on track to reach Safer Level 1 next week.”

Kindergarten through third grade are slated to return Oct. 19 while grades four through eight are scheduled for an Oct. 26 return.

The announcement comes as the covid dial dropped to level 1, which triggered plans for a return to in-class instruction. But in addition to the covid dial’s level, the decision comes after district administration have learned “two important lessons,” the release states.

“First, the risks are much lower than previously feared if precautions are rigorously applied,” the release states. “Second, that the covid dial only provides a partial assessment of the actual risk level. Given this, we will take a more comprehensive approach in making decisions about returning to in-person learning.”

With that in mind, Roaring Fork Schools stated they would work to keep students in the classroom as much as is safely possible and use metrics and guidance in addition to the covid dial.

“The dial has a couple of really important data points that we’re looking at but it doesn’t necessarily paint the whole picture,” said Kelsy Been, Roaring Fork Schools public information officer. “We also know we want to continue to have conversations and figure out how we will make decisions going forward.”

Public health guidance, observing what is working in other districts and continuously keeping up on new data and information will be key to returning students to the classroom and keeping teachers/staff safe.

“We know that school’s going to look really different and we will have some transition,” Been said. “We’ve been working really closely with public health to understand those thresholds of when we might need to transition.”

How to return high school students to the classroom is still a work in progress, which the district acknowledged in the release will likely disappoint some parents. Been said she appreciated the patience and understanding provided by parents so far while the district works toward a return for as many students as possible.

“I think we wall want the same things — what’s best for students and for everyone to be safe — and I just appreciate the continued patience and support and knowing that we’re all in this together,” she said. “We’re all wanting things to be better for our kids and for our teachers.”

Ahead of the return, students will be provided two days’ worth of course work while teachers use that time to prepare for their students to come back to class. Students will also retain the option of remote instruction.

Prior to returning, students will also learn about safety measures being implemented in schools such as:

— Requiring masks for all children older than 3 in school, on buses and throughout the day;

— Physical distancing and cohorting students into separate groups;

— Enhanced cleaning measures;

— Asking guardians to check students for symptoms at home every day before they go to school;

— Symptom and temperature checks at schools every day.

No visitors will be allowed in school upon students’ return and drop-off and pick-up protocols will also be implemented, the release states. Schools will provide free breakfast and lunch for students through Dec. 31.

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