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Jeffco will allow all students to return to school buildings this fall

Students at Lumberg Elementary School in Jefferson County work on their assigned iPads during a class project. Photo by Nicholas Garcia

Jeffco will allow all students, including older students, to go back to in-person learning this fall.

The district had already announced that elementary schools would open for students to return to classes five days a week. Because that plan involves grouping students to interact with only a small number of students and staff each day, district leaders had said the logistics of planning that for middle and high school students would take more time.

The district will also have a remote option for any students who want to keep learning from home.

The 43-page plan released Wednesday goes into more details.

High school students will attend a maximum of four in-person classes per school day, and may need to take some classes online. Each school will have to create a specific plan for student pickup and drop-off, building entry, symptom screening, transitions, and lunch schedules.

“Individual schools will communicate their plans to their staff and school community for review prior to implementation,” the plan states.

The plan also states face coverings will be required during the day “when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.” Teachers, for instance, can use a face shield if they are giving a lesson more than 6 feet away from students, but otherwise must also wear a mask.

Family members and visitors will not be permitted in schools, to further limit the exposure of those in the buildings.

Officials said tasks such as arranging desks and tables so that all students face the same direction, will be a shared responsibility among school staff and custodial and facility teams.

The district follows several others in the metro area that are also planning to bring students back into the classrooms.

Jason Glass, superintendent of Jeffco schools, said that more details still need to be worked out, and that he expects that the plans may still shift.

“We had to make some decisions and put out some concepts about what the fall would look like,” Glass said. “We have to acknowledge there’s a heck of a lot that could still shift.”

One thing that the plan doesn’t yet address is the size of each student cohort, and will be determined by public health guidance closer to when school starts.

Jeffco, like Aurora, is also pushing back the first day of school to the week of Aug. 24 to allow staff time to receive training before students return to buildings.

School districts surveyed parents as they prepared these fall plans. In Jeffco, of more than 16,000 respondents, more than 90% said they are either certain or likely to attend in-person learning.

The district is now asking parents to take a survey and let schools know if their students will be returning to campuses, or if they prefer the online option. Teachers and staff will also have a chance this month to ask for remote assignments based on their own health risks.

Brooke Williams, the president of the Jeffco teachers union, did not respond to a request for comment about the fall plan.

But teachers across the country have been raising questions about how districts are considering their safety as they plan to return students to classes.

In Jeffco, when a teacher requests a remote assignment based on health risks, the district’s human resources team will review the provided documentation for that risk and designate staff as someone who should be considered for remote work. That designation will then be forwarded to the school principals to consider.

The district will help transfer teachers if a remote assignment isn’t available at their school, but officials said that there may be “many cases” when a staff member is designated as someone at risk who should do remote work, but who may still end up in an in-person assignment. It will depend on how many students and teachers choose each learning option.

Glass said that in the case those requests are disproportional, the district will start ranking different health risks to give priority to those at higher risk.

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