2020 brought quite a few difficulties for brick-and-mortar schools such as Colorado’s first school district in Trinidad, School District No. 1 (TSD1). After a difficult fall semester of keeping students engaged, the district is taking the lessons and experience they’ve gained and pushing forward with getting students back in school as early as February 8 according to TSD1 Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Aaron.
“There is research that shows that schools are not a vector for COVID-19 spreading,” said Dr. Aaron. “We believe that kids learn better in person.”
Additionally, public health experts have continued to stress that in-person learning was also important for social-emotional wellbeing.
Aaron also explained that any students with failing grades will be invited back for in person instruction starting on Jan. 25, giving more time for staff to potentially be vaccinated. The district has also endeavored to go above beyond the required safety precautions to ensure student and teacher safety.
“Governor Polis declared public schools as critical businesses with essential personnel,” said Aaron. “We will do our very best to protect our employees and students. Some of the extra safety measures (not required) include air purifiers in every room, desk shields, shields, gloves, masks, touchless sanitizers, foggers, touchless thermometers and social distancing signage.”
The district’s overall plan is a move to “hybrid” learning where students will be broken up into groups and certain students will be in-person while the others are remote, then vise versa.
This reduces the amount of students in the building at one time, helping to spread students out a bit more and avoid potential transmissions. On Dec. 30, Polis announced that due to a decrease in the number of cases statewide, all counties in red, of which Las Animas County was one, would be moved to orange.
Now in level orange, the state’s professional recommendations stated that in-person education was suggested, with hybrid or remote learning being implemented only when appropriate.
All this said, there’s nothing stopping the numbers to start to rise again following holiday traveling and spread which could make the district’s plans for in-person learning come Feb. 8 look entirely different. But even in level red risk, Preschool through Fifth Grade state recommendations suggest continuing in-person to continue, with Middle-school in-person also suggested.
In level purple, noted as extreme risk, there, too, in-person is suggested “as appropriate,” according to the state health department.
Aaron said they look forward to the potential opportunity to return to in-person and will hold their regular board meeting on Jan. 27 where they will re-evaluate their plans for hybrid learning.