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First Colorado district announces closure through end of school year

Close up of a student wearing a red backpack standing behind a wire fence. Wokandapix/ISO republic

The 16,000-student Thompson school district announced Thursday it will close school buildings and cancel in-person instruction for the rest of the school year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The northern Colorado district is likely the first in the state to make such a decision. The neighboring Poudre district, which enrolls 31,000 students, followed suit a few hours later. State education officials said Thursday they are not aware of any other districts that have announced closures through the end of the school year.

The Thompson announcement comes a day after Gov. Jared Polis ordered an extension of statewide school closures from April 17 to April 30. District leaders said they made the decision based on a recommendation from Larimer County health officials and that it extends the current remote learning scenario till school officially lets out for the summer. The district’s last day of school is May 22.

Superintendent Marc Schaffer explained the closure decision in a letter to families Thursday afternoon.

“The key factor leading to this decision is guidance from county health officials that the impact of COVID-19 is likely to peak during the last week of April. This creates a significant safety risk for all of our students, families and staff members and … I truly feel that this is the wise step for us to take as a district and a community.”

The decision prompted mixed reactions among parents and the public on social media, with several commenters lamenting that graduating seniors will lose out on an important rite of passage.

“Please, please, please hold a graduation ceremony for the seniors. Please just delay the ceremonies,” Annie DeCoteau wrote on Facebook in response to the superintendent’s message.

Another commenter argued it was too early to make a decision to cancel school for the rest of the year.

“Why make the decision now? No one has a crystal ball on this. If the decision needs to be made in 3-4 weeks, then make it at that time,” wrote Jill Fischer. “Now, the despair set in today when it didn’t need to.”

Some praised the district for the closure decision.

“While it is so hard for so many students, parents, and teachers to wrap their head around such a huge shift in events, measures like this will ultimately save lives,” wrote Brianne Coil.

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