Yuma-1 closer to start of in-person school year

Everything is falling into place for Yuma School District-1 to begin the 2020-21 school year as planned on August 31.

The Yuma-1 Board of Education went over the district’s Return to School plan again Monday night during its regular meeting. All the district schools now have specific plans in place in relation to their own facilities and the district’s overall plan. (Those will be available to the public soon.)
Superintendent Dianna Chrisman had good news, reporting that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently released a ruling that schools don’t have to be as sensitive when it come to a student having an illness — as long as school district is in the Green Phase.
For example, if a student has a runny nose, the school can follow its normal process rather than having to assume it is COVID-19 related and send the student home for 10 days, or until it can be proven it is not COVID related.
However, Chrisman stressed that schools always have had rules in place that a student should be symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school. She explained that is has been common through the years for a student to go home sick one day, but wake up the next day feeling fine and returning to school.
Now the schools are stressing that students need to stay home that extra day in order to be symptom free for 24 hours.
Of course, if students or staff show any symptoms of COVID-19, they will have to stay home for the required 10 days unless a physician can determine it is something different.
Overall, there are no significant changes to the district’s Return to School plan, Chrisman told the board. She said it is now a “better commonsense document” due to the CDPHE ruling.
All Yuma schools still plan on doing temperature checks as students and staff enter the building.
As of now, all Yuma schools will start the new school year in the Green Phase, the less stringent of the phases, which includes Yellow and Red.
However, in regards to lunch time, Morris Elementary will begin the school year as if in Yellow, meaning students will have lunch in their classrooms.
Chrisman said the district will re-evaluate the plan after a month or two if there is no community spread of COVID-19. However, she noted “We anticipate we will be at Yellow at some point. We hope not, but we anticipate it will likely happen.”
Yuma schools will go to Yellow if there are at least 10 confirmed cases within one week, which will mean more stringent screening when students and staff come to school, and all students in grades K-8 eating lunch in their classrooms, while YHS still will have an open campus policy since it allows students to be apart during that time. It also will kick in stricter guidelines for students and staff returning to school if they do have an illness.
The Red Phase, which calls for schools to go to remote learning for at least two weeks, kicks in if there are 30 confirmed cases among the Yuma schools within one week.
Board President Dan Ross said constituents have been telling him they think students never will be able to leave their classroom for other subjects such as music, art and PE.
Chrisman said that is not accurate, that students will go to the appropriate rooms for those classes (at least while in Green Phase).
Ross also brought up that people living in the country have been saying they have been told it is better if they bring their children to school rather than utilize the school bus.
Chrisman said Yuma-1 has not made that part of its plan, though such advice might have come from the state level. Country students are still welcome to ride the bus, though there will be protocols and restrictions in place.
Governor Jared Polis recently extended the current mask mandate through September 13, so Yuma-1 will begin the school year requiring all students, ages 10 and above, and staff to wear a mask while entering and moving about the schools. Staff will be required to wear masks at all times, though there might be instances when students to not have to in the classroom if proper social distancing can be attained.
Chrisman said some classes in some rooms will be difficult to get the proper social distancing. She said spreading out as much as possible and also wearing face coverings will be the norm for now.
YMS is staggering the start of classes and the “pass time” between classes. For example, the eighth grade and sixth grade, which utilize different hallways in YMS, will go from one class to another, followed by the seventh grade and fifth grade, in order to cut down on the number of students in the hallways at one time, and further enhance the “cohort” philosophy as much as possible.
Ross said he was worried about the well being of students, particularly younger ones, who cannot see the faces of their teachers. Chrisman said the district is doing its best to balance safety with the best possible educational opportunities for the students.
Look for more on the individual school plans in next week’s edition prior to the start of the school year.
It appears likely Yuma-1, and other area districts, will be able to open the school year on the Green Phase. COVID-19 cases in Colorado are on the decline, and as of this past Tuesday, Yuma County has had only one new confirmed case in August, and that came on August 4.
As of this past Thursday’s COVID-19 data update on the Northeast Colorado Health Department website, nchd.org, Yuma County had zero active cases, the first time that has occurred in months. Plus, the counties surrounding Yuma were in in good shape, though Washington County did have four active cases.
The district’s principals were in attendance at Monday’s meeting — YHS’s Brady Nighswonger, YMS’s Brenda Kloberdanz, and MES’s Keri Chapman.
Chrisman made a point of thanking the principals, along with their staff and the district office personnel, for all the hard work everyone put in to implementing a plan for a safe return to school. Chrisman noted it has been a long and difficult process, particularly in recent weeks as the plans were finalized, but it has all come together thanks to the hard work of so many people.
The principals also voiced appreciation for all the work the board and district leaders have put into it. Kloberdanz also noted that Yuma-1 is way ahead of many other districts in regards to technology equality for all students, apparently referencing the fact the district has purchased Chromebooks and hot spots, if a student needs a hot spot, for all students in case they need to do remote learning.
Yuma-1 families have the option of having their children return to in-person instruction, utilize “synchronous” remote learning with the Chromebooks (including while one might be home sick) or do online learning for at least one semester through the Colorado Digital Learning Service, which the district has utilized in the past for some online classes.
However, Chrisman told the board that CDLS currently is being overrun by demand statewide, and encouraged families who want to go that route to contact the district as soon as possible.