Denver Public Schools plans to bring kindergarten students back later this month

Masked girl works on her laptop at a learning center.
Anahi Zaldana works on a laptop at Denver’s Newlon Elementary School, one of the schools providing child care during virtual learning. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)

Citing decreases in COVID-19 cases and the challenges of remote learning for young children, Denver Public Schools said Friday that schools could start opening classrooms to kindergarten and first grade students as early as Sept. 28.

The district started the school year virtually on Aug. 24. It planned for learning to remain virtual until Oct. 16, though Superintendent Susana Cordova has long said the district could bring some students back to school in person before then if virus conditions improved.

The district began that process this week by reopening its four stand-alone early childhood education centers to 3- and 4-year olds. Preschool students who attend classes at Denver elementary schools are set to return to classrooms on Monday.

“We know that remote learning can be particularly challenging for elementary students,” Cordova wrote in a letter to elementary educators Friday.

“We are ready to safely and gradually welcome back kindergarten and first grade students, based on ongoing feedback we’ve received from our teachers, leaders, families, and larger community,” she wrote.

The district is following a “phase-in” approach to bringing back kindergarten and first grade students, according to a staff presentation obtained by Chalkbeat. Schools could start bringing back students in small groups the week of Sept. 28, though the presentation says the plan “will be adjusted as needed based on health conditions and school and district readiness.”

In-person kindergarten classes would be fully available by Oct. 5, according to the presentation. In-person first grade classes would be fully available by Oct. 12. 

Families who don’t want to send their children could choose to continue to learn virtually. Families must make a decision — in-person or virtual learning — by Sept. 18. Those who don’t choose an option by that deadline will automatically be enrolled in virtual learning.

Students with disabilities who are in kindergarten, first, or second grade and who attend one of the district’s center-based programs could also return to school in person as early as Sept. 28.

Students in all grades could be back in school by Oct. 21, though district officials have said middle and high school students will likely return in a hybrid fashion, with some in-person and some virtual classes.

Schools could begin holding in-person orientation days for students in grades 2 through 12 as early as Oct. 12.

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