Adams 14 board approves plan to bring students back to classrooms

Young children in masks and winter coats line up to enter an Adams 14 school building on a snowy day.
At least three Adams 14 schools will remain on remote learning Wednesday due to staff shortages. (Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post)

Some schools in the Adams 14 district may return to in-person instruction Wednesday after the school board voted to accept school-by-school thresholds for how much staff is enough to safely open schools.

As of Tuesday night, three schools would not have enough staff to offer in-person learning Wednesday.

The board voted late Tuesday evening in a special meeting to address teachers’ concerns about school safety amid the omicron surge and staff shortages. The district and its management company, MGT, have been at odds on various issues, including on whether or not to return to in-person learning.

Last week, Adams 14 became the first district in the state to move all schools to remote learning. 

At the end of the week, MGT leaders directed schools to return to in-person instruction Tuesday. But the district declined to meet union requests for clear guidelines on when schools would move to remote learning. Teachers then called in sick. 

The district had to announce Monday after 8 p.m. that nine of its 11 schools would be remote for at least another day. The district’s two preschools were in person Tuesday.

Principals and other educators who spoke to the board on Tuesday mentioned that some families didn’t get the message and bus drivers had to relay it as they picked up some kids in the morning and told others to head back home. The decision late Tuesday could set up a similar dilemma Wednesday. 

While there was disagreement about details, every principal and educator who addressed the board said the most important thing families needed was clear and timely communication.

“Our kids are starting to struggle today more because of the uncertainty,” said Luis Camas, principal of Rose Hill Elementary. “It’s starting to trickle down now.”

Even after the board vote, it wasn’t clear which school buildings would be open Wednesday and which would be closed, since each school has its own metric. District officials sent out communication about an hour after the end of the meeting to say three schools would continue remote learning: Adams City High School, Kearney Middle School, and Monaco Elementary School.

Initially the district had discussed setting a threshold of 25% of staff absent as the bar for moving a school to remote learning. But principals told the board Tuesday that they wanted to set their own thresholds because each school was different. Some of the small schools may find it hard to absorb even a few unfilled absences in certain positions or grades.

The board voted unanimously to support the new approach, but members initially were split on whether or not to accept the thresholds that were presented to them based on principal feedback and supported by the union, or whether to wait to get feedback from parents and teachers.

This policy could change again soon. 

For now, the district plans to use the thresholds approved Tuesday but the board also told the superintendent to create policies incorporating feedback from families. 

Board members said the new guidelines should include things like a time by which families will be informed of school closures and when rates of community transmission would trigger school closures. Those guidelines will be presented for the board to vote on next Tuesday.

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