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Denver to delay reopening middle and high schools to in-person learning

A young girl with long dark hair leans toward a silver laptop computer.

Instead of reopening to students on Oct. 21, Denver middle and high school buildings will now reopen on Nov. 9 at the earliest.

Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Denver middle and high schools will continue with virtual learning into November, according to an internal district communication obtained by Chalkbeat. The school district had planned to reopen school buildings to middle and high school students on Oct. 21.

COVID-19 cases have been rising in Denver. On Monday, as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock sounded the alarm, Superintendent Susana Cordova said the district would consult with public health officials and take a second look at plans to bring older students back to the classroom.

At a school board meeting later that evening, Dr. Bill Burman, the director of Denver Public Health reiterated that he believes it’s relatively safe to bring students back to school and that the greatest risk is that of frequent learning disruptions due to quarantine.

But he also noted that COVID cases had risen among school-age children in Denver in recent weeks. Public health officials have attributed a spike in cases citywide to outbreaks that originated on college campuses and have now spread to the community.

Denver elementary schools will reopen on schedule, the district communication says. The district has been gradually bringing back elementary students in recent weeks, with the goal of having all students who opted for in-person learning back in classrooms by Oct. 21. Public health data shows COVID infections are lower among young children than in teenagers.

The district now plans to reopen middle and high schools on Nov. 9 at the earliest, instead of on Oct. 21, the district communication says. There are two exceptions: Programs that serve students with disabilities and students new to the United States will reopen as planned on Oct. 21.

“We know this will be a disappointment for many of our secondary students as well as school leaders and staff, as I know you have been working hard to make plans to safely reopen our doors,” Cordova said in an email to district staff Tuesday.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” she said. “Yet given our overriding focus on health and safety and the current COVID conditions and guidance we are receiving, we feel this is the right decision.”

In many cases, the delay won’t change how students learn, but where. District limits on the number of students who can interact with a single teacher caused several middle and high schools to decide to stick with virtual teaching even after buildings reopen. 

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