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D51 releases Phase 1 of reopening plan

Parents and teachers gather outside Orchard Mesa Middle School an hour before the School Board...
Parents and teachers gather outside Orchard Mesa Middle School an hour before the School Board meeting.(Jason Burger)
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 10:58 PM MDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 9:13 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -

Tuesday night, parents got some answers at District 51′s School Board meeting, where officials went in-depth on new policies for in-person learning this fall.

But lots of questions still remain.

With the planned school start date of August 17th about three weeks away, District 51 staff faces a daunting school year. Christine Dewitt is a teacher at Orchard Mesa Middle School.

“We’ve already missed quite a bit of learning, as we know the remote learning was kind of a cluster. I’m immunocompromised, I want to make sure we’re safe, our kids are safe, and that they are actually getting an education,” Dewitt said.

She’s for getting kids back in classrooms this fall.

“In our gym class we average about 50 kids a class so obviously social distancing is going to be an issue,” Dewitt said.

District leaders said at the board meeting their detailed plan essentially comes down to cohorting, masks, and early action if a student shows symptoms.

Elementary and middle school students will be put in small groups, where they are in contact with the same kids day-to-day. Masks will also be required in schools for students and teachers, with some exceptions.

But Kindergarten teacher Alice Dussart says you can’t stop the inevitable.

“The impracticality of opening in person, knowing that once those illnesses start rolling in, it’s going to be very disruptive to children’s learning,” Dussart said.

The district also wants to require symptom screening for every student every day, whether a parent does it at home, or it happens at a school itself. But some still say remote learning is the safe bet.

“The easiest and most effective way for us as educators to move forward is to go in with distanced learning,” Dussart said.

If a student does show symptoms of the virus, that means an automatic notification to the cohort of students around them. There would then be extra disinfection and surveillance of the cohort by school health officials in a ten-day period.

“It’s very impractical to imagine that kindergarteners are going to be able to be contentious enough to not touch their face, not share germs, wash their hands, and social distance,” Dussart said.

But all the district staff realizes there’s no perfect plan in this pandemic scenario.

“Either way we’re going to be upsetting a group, and I hope everyone can see that we’ve got guidelines to follow and things like that,” Dewitt said.

A school board member made the comment that individual schools should not open up until they have all the PPE and supplies they need to make things work.

District 51 said going back to remote learning is definitely still an option if the COVID situation gets bad within schools.

We're told buses will run this year, but masks will also be required and there will be a seating chart on each one.

For more in-depth details on what happened at the school board meeting, go here: https://www.d51schools.org/resources/covid19

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