The Yuma School District-1 Board of Education learned quite a bit about getting the 2020-21 school year started at the end of next month.
However, there is still a vast amount of details to be nailed down in coming weeks, the board also learned during its regular monthly meeting, Monday night. It was an in-person meeting, as have been all board meetings since the novel coronavirus hit in the spring.
Superintendent Dianna Chrisman explained instructional options that will be offered to families, as well six pages of Yuma County’s outline for returning to school.
Details, such as wearing masks will be figured out later.
Instructional options will be either in-person, live-streaming instruction, or families choosing the online service Colorado Digital Learning Solutions.
Live streaming would entail a student participating in the full school day, from start to finish, from home. Yuma-1 has purchased Chromebooks for each student, along with hot spots, that everybody will have at their home, in the event a student has to be out of school for an extended period, or in the event the whole district would have to return to remote learning.
Choosing the online service Colorado Digital Learning Solutions would require a full-semester commitment.
Families will be free to choose the option they feel is the best for them.
The board unanimously approved a resolution Monday night allowing for student contact days to include remote learning. The resolution is in effect for just the 2020-21 school year, and will allow the district to meet the student-teacher contact days rule in order to continue receiving funding.
The State of Colorado announced Monday it is leaving the decision to have school up to local control.
As of now, Yuma will be having schools as the board unanimously approved the “COVID Reopening of Schools Protocol.”
Leaders from all four of Yuma County’s school districts worked together on the plan with guidance from both hospitals in the county, as well as the Northeast Colorado Health Department.
It recently was approved by the Yuma County COVID Task Force, which also includes the county government and municipal governments, and the hospitals.
The final step to keep moving forward was approval by the board of education. Chrisman also noted the current low-rate of spread in the community is a key component.
She stressed that each school district will tailor its final plans based on the county-wide document. She acknowledged county-wide plan is vague in some areas, and the district’s final document will involve more details.
The plan does entail pages of guidelines. It includes communication and education for staff, parents and students in regards to sanitation, hygiene, understanding when to keep students home and much more. It covers guidelines for public gathers, administrative offices, bus transit, kitchen and cafeteria, classrooms, playgrounds and gyms, restrooms, and the care of staff and students who become ill. Social distancing is to be practiced as much as possible.
Chrisman said the district’s sanitizing and disinfecting protocols will go above and beyond the county-wide guidelines. She also spoke of utilizing cohorts as much as possible, keeping students in the same group as feasible.
Daily screening for illness is to take place. Parents will be educated to properly screen their students before sending them to school. Buses will be the second point of the screening, and school will be the final point of the screening.
Green, Yellow, Red
Colors are being utilized to identify different phases of reopening.
• Green is the most open of the phases.
This is if the level of illness is low, if the hospitals have less than 25-percent of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the task force has not communicated any concerns. Extracurricular activities will be limited to 75 percent of the capacity of the gym/room. Capacity will be limited for an outside event as well, and fans will be encouraged to distance between families. (It is not known yet what, if any, extracurriculars will be allowed during the school year.)
• Yellow is the middle phase.
For Yuma and Wray, its schools would go to that if 10 or more students or staff test positive within one week. For Liberty and Idalia, the threshold will be five or more positives within one week.
Meals will be delivered to and eaten in the classroom. Open campus will remain available to prevent crowding.
Classrooms will be separated on the playground.
All students and staff will be screened within the first hour of the school day, with anyone testing positive being sent home — staff immediately, and students must be picked up within one hour.
The Yellow Phase will be in effect for a minimum of two weeks, and until the number of new cases has started to decline.
Extracurricular activities, if they are allowed in the first place, may continue. Attendance will be limited to no more than 50-percent capacity, with a maximum group limit of 250.
• Red is the most restrictive.
The threshold for Yuma and Wray will be 30 positive cases within one week, and for Liberty and Idalia it will be 15.
School will be closed for a minimum of two weeks. Remote learning will be provided. On-site learning could resume once the number of reported students/staff are at or below the threshold for Yellow Phase. School will reopen at the Yellow Phase for one week, and may proceed to Green as the illness numbers allow.
There is wording in the Red Phase about still having extracurriculars. Chrisman made it clear there would not be any team games during such a time, but the wording was left in, in the event an individual student who does not show any symptoms has an opportunity to participate in some kind of major event.
Chrisman noted that no recommendation has been made yet, but said it might be best to start school at the Yellow Phase to minimize the possible disruption to students and suddenly having to go through different protocols.
Coming back from COVID
The county-wide guideline outline that any students or employees that test positive may not return to school until they have met all of the following:
• No fever for 72 hours without use of fever reducing medication, and;
• Symptoms are improving, and;
• 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms.
The plan also accounts for students or employees who test negative, and are sick with something else. (This article in no way is reporting everything in the plan.)
Board member Duane Brown asked if the test meant the screening test the schools will have in place, or the actual COVID-19 test. Chrisman said that is one of the details that still needs to be worked out.
She explained that the district will have to assume someone who is showing the symptoms does have COVID until proven otherwise. If a student or employee does not get tested, then they will be treated as having it and have to meet the above requirements.
Brown said he thought the requirements were too lenient. It was explained that the 10 days is what medical experts say is the time one is contagious. Brown said if a test is not done, perhaps the student should have to do live-streaming for 30 days.
Board member Dan Ross said he was not going to be judge or jury on that type of decision, noting just because one has COVID symptoms it does not mean they do have. Board member Lindsey Galles said she thinks the district has to go with what the medical people say.
Brown said he thought the document was too vague, but would vote for it with the understanding a more-detailed plan would be presented to the board in the near future.
The motion to approve the plan passed on a 5-0 vote.
Chrisman said that was the idea, and noted there would probably have to be a special meeting to approve the Yuma-specific plan prior to the next regular monthly meeting in August.