DEL NORTE- Unlike most of the schools in the Valley, the Upper Rio Grande School District spent their first week doing online classes and will be starting in-person learning Tuesday, Sept. 8. “Everything went really well for the first week. We wanted to give students, teachers and staff extra time to prepare for in-person learning, so we opted to start that a week later,” said Superintendent Chris Burr.
Burr sent out the following letter to parents Monday, Aug. 31, explaining how in-person learning will look at the Upper Rio Grande School District, “In just over a week, we will begin our in-person learning plans for the year. We are aware of the struggles for many families when school is not in session, and we sincerely thank you for your patience and support. Sometime around midnight March 12, several of us were standing in the hallway of a Loveland hotel, frustrated with the cancellation of the State Girls Basketball Championship Tournament. Even then, it was clear that the aftermath of COVID-19 would be at least as bad as the disease itself. The levels of fear and anxiety are extraordinary, and “normal” has become a political issue. We feel our students need as much “normal” as we can provide, while balancing safety for all involved, and not providing any false sense of security.”
Burr continued to state that masks will be required by all persons inside the school unless illness or disabilities require an exemption. “We have no faith in our state government but will follow the mandates as needed. Having the students back is pretty much everything to us and we will do what we need to in order to keep them in school. Superintendents around the state are still fighting to get something changed and would like to see the state go to the Protect your Neighbor phase.”
Burr also stated that the percentage of students returning to school to those who have chosen to stay in online learning courses has been changing daily. “I imagine that those numbers will change as the year progresses but right now, we are about 75 to 80 percent for in-person learning and 20 to 25 percent of our students have chosen to stay home.”
Some helpful tips from Burr to parents include, “Children with any symptoms of illness should stay home, and away from other children even while at home. If children come to school with any symptoms of illness, we will send them home for a 10-day isolation period. CDPHE offers guidance on their website - https://covid19.Colorado.gov/cases-and-outbreaks-child-care-schools
As much as possible, please avoid travel to areas where COVID-19 transmission is not controlled. Other districts in our area are not allowing students to return to school after travel to certain areas, until they have been quarantined for 14 days. We will not do this at this point, but we ask that you take extra caution when traveling. Any positive case of COVID-19 will have a significant impact on our ability to provide in-person learning.
A note regarding online learning, social-distancing and mandatory masks: Online Learning is not the way we want to provide education to our students and community. It has, however, become a necessary tool in this time of fear, uncertainty, and government mandates and shutdowns. One of our goals in delaying the start of school is to better prepare teachers and students for our new version of online learning, in the face of possible closure by COVID-19, or by the State Government.
Social-distancing, as recommended by the WHO, CDC, CDPHE, or anyone else for that matter, is simply not feasible in a school setting. We can and will do our best in efforts to keep students and staff separated, but it would be harmful to give anyone a false sense of security. We will be changing how and where we serve breakfast. Lunch will be less congested inside, and we will certainly use our outdoor spaces while the weather is cooperative. Our class sizes are already small in most sections, and with your help in checking symptoms each day, we will have great success even if an illness does happen.
A large group of people share the opinion that mask wearing is essential to everyone’s safety and well-/being. A differing group, perhaps no less in size, points to the lack of credible scientific evidence and peer-reviewed research regarding the efficacy of mask wearing as a safety measure. The WHO recommends wearing a mask, especially when distancing is not possible, but also warns against the false sense of security that a mask can provide, because not wearing one correctly is as good as not wearing one at all. Regardless of your position, the following remains true:
Currently, the Governor of the State of Colorado has issued a mask mandate for all persons 11 years and older, while in public indoor spaces. This order is set to expire Sept. 14 but could be extended.
Wearing a mask is most possibly effective when properly worn...please see WHO and CDC advice on how to wear a mask properly. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
For as long as the statewide mandate is in place, we will make every effort to reasonably comply, without creating a nightmare scenario around unenforceable disciplinary practices. If and when the mask mandate expires, it is the current position of the URGSD that mask wearing will become optional, and perhaps encouraged.
URGSD disinfection practices and microorganism defense system: Every day, more evidence emerges regarding the transmission routes of COVID-19. What began as fomite (surface) and droplet (person to person closer than 3ft), has turned further toward aerosol (very small particles traveling great distances and hanging in the air for hours to days). It is nearly impossible to keep up with the changing science.
The URGSD has taken significant steps to better ensure the safety of students and staff in our school building. The addition of the DHP (dry hydrogen peroxide) system has peer reviewed scientific evidence showing its effectiveness in killing microorganisms in the air, and on surfaces. Because of the new evidence around aerosol transmission, the world’s largest health organizations are recommending better ventilation and indoor air quality. Your new school will have the cleanest and safest indoor air possible, because of our state-of-the-art filtration system, and our new bio-defense system. When combined with the new tools for cleaning and maintenance, we can offer the highest level of confidence and safety...though nothing we do is perfect. Again, we thank you for your patience and support.”