Gov. Polis to schools: Students need somewhere to go on remote learning days

A Lake County elementary school student works on an assignment away from his desk. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)
File photo of Lake County elementary student working away from his desk.

School districts planning to offer limited in-person instruction this fall may need to provide childcare options for working parents.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told the State Board of Education in a presentation Monday afternoon that students need somewhere to go on the days when they aren’t in the classroom.

Polis, expressing optimism, also said he expects “most schools” will be back to school “largely in a normal way” this fall. That optimism is in line with comments he made recently to charter school leaders in which he suggested schools might be able to have classes of 20 to 25 students, despite current state guidance that caps gatherings at no more than 10 people.

But he said that districts need multiple contingency plans.

Jeffco, Denver, and several other school districts have started releasing drafts of those contingency plans that include hybrid models of school. In part to follow guidelines that cap gatherings and suggest children must be 6 feet apart in classrooms, districts expect to have smaller class sizes, and in turn, alternate groups of students in the building on different days. Many people have questioned how parents, including teachers, will be able to return to work if their own children might still be learning from home a few days per week.

The Colorado Department of Education put out a set of guidelines to help schools plan for the fall, but final rules on how school will be allowed to happen won’t come until later this summer, and will depend on the trend of new COVID-19 cases.

“The truth is that nobody knows where we will be in August or September,” Polis said.

State epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, went over the state’s modeling and projections for the next few months which show that cases will likely be rising in August again. Coloradans must continue to limit their interactions with others to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed as soon as this summer, she said.

Herlihy and Polis also pointed out that risk for students to have severe illness as a result of COVID-19 is low, but acknowledged that there may be other at-risk individuals in schools. Polis suggested that school districts should give older teachers and educators preference in doing remote work as a way to keep them safe.

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