Roaring Fork Schools cancel classes for next week amid heightened COVID-19 concerns
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Spring break for the Roaring Fork Schools will be extended to include an extra three days next week, in the ongoing effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt had already planned to take March 19-29 off for spring break — part of an intentional extended break this year.
The precautionary closure extends the planned break an extra three days, Monday through Wednesday.
It comes on the heels of a decision by the Aspen School District earlier Friday to close school an extra week beyond spring break next week, as well.
Both state charter schools located within the district, Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs and Ross Montessori School in Carbondale, as well as the private St. Stephen Catholic School in Glenwood, are following suit.
RFSD Superintendent Rob Stein said the decision was made in consultation with Garfield County Public Health.
“Closing our schools is a precaution against spreading COVID-19 in our communities,” he said in a letter sent to parents early Friday afternoon.
“This closure will give our custodial team additional time to deep clean our schools,” Stein continued.
The district anticipates reopening schools on March 30. However, further school closure determinations will be made in consultation with public health authorities, Stein said.
“We will monitor this situation closely as it unfolds over the next two weeks and will communicate our plans,” he said.
During the extended closure, there will not be an expectation for student distance learning, though learning materials may be sent home with students to try to keep them engaged during the break, Stein added.
“We encourage all families to support their children in continuing with learning during the closure,” he said. “In the event that we close our schools beyond March 29, we will provide optional educational resources to support students.”
The district will not need to make up the three days, and the Colorado Department of Education has indicated it will make an exception even for districts that would have to make up any lost days due to the COVID-19 closures.
Charter school and St. Stephen officials said they typically follow any district closures, and will do so in this instance.
“We determined our best course of action with all of the uncertainty was to partner with Roaring Fork Schools,” Two Rivers Head of School Jamie Nims said. “The hope is to maximize efficiency and minimize confusion for families in the valley.”
St. Stephen Principal Glenda Oliver concurred, and said the school will determine if it will reopen on March 30.
“If we do not open on March 30, we will be providing our families with distance learning through the duration of this social distancing closure,” Oliver said.
Added Sonya Hemmen, head of school for Ross Montessori, “As a Colorado Charter Institute-authorized school, we follow the local district’s call and will follow suit. We have been very active, as has the RFSD, in preparing for this eventuality.”
Stein acknowledged that any closure extensions beyond March 30 will create an extra burden for families with students who rely on school meals.
“Many of our students rely on our school breakfast and lunch program for their nutritional needs,” he said in the parent letter.
If further closures are necessary, the district will provide more information on ways meals can still be provided, he said.
“Our goal is to reduce isolation, maintain connections to classmates and school, and maintain academic engagement during the school closure,” Stein said.