LPS Task Force Developing Plans for School Next Fall

Dear LPS Community,

I hope this communication finds you and your families healthy and well. Thank you again for your support, partnership and patience as we navigated together through distance learning for the last two months of the  2019-2020 school year. We experienced success and challenges, and we are learning from them. Students and staff were given an opportunity to provide us with feedback about their distance learning experiences. 

Parents, it is important that we hear from you as well. A survey has been sent to you about your experiences with distance learning. Feedback from parents, students and staff will help us shape plans moving forward.

Plans for School Next Fall
Many of you are wondering what school will look like when students return in the fall. We continue to have hope that all LPS students will be able to return to our schools for in-person learning in August. But, we also understand this may be unlikely. Therefore, LPS must prepare for school that looks vastly different than anything we’ve ever done before.

This requires our very best thinking and creativity. All options are on the table. An LPS Task Force made up of teachers, school leaders, parents, and other professionals in nutrition services, school age child care, operations, and transportation will meet from late May through the middle of June.  The Task Force will develop potential solutions that bring students back to school in a “hybrid model” - one where students come back to their school building part of the time and continue distance learning at home part of the time. It will be necessary to have not just one, but several hybrid models ready to go; we must be nimble in order to adjust to social distancing requirements that will remain fluid and change on a moment’s notice throughout the school year.

Moving to a hybrid model of school will not be easy. Schools are designed to bring students and teachers together in close proximity to work collaboratively in teams. We will improve distance learning, as it will likely have to continue in some form. We are learning from research. We are closely studying the plans of other school districts locally and across the country. 

Every hybrid model we’ve seen so far in other districts across the country is problematic for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the challenge it poses for working parents who rely on their children being at school on a normal schedule. For example, we may need to design models that allow for 10 students, 15 students and 20 students per teacher. Each hybrid model requires a completely different plan for class schedules, teacher schedules, student seating, handwashing, symptom screening, temperature checks, breakfast and lunch, restroom use, recess, bus transportation and cleaning schedules. It requires great creativity to determine which students and teachers are learning at the school and which are learning online at home on any given day at any given time. This is much more complicated at the high school level, where as many as 2,300 students and staff occupy one building.

I ask for your patience as the LPS Task Force does its work. We understand that making decisions for the fall now may provide comfort to some. But, we are planning for an uncertain future. Decisions made now will most likely change significantly by August as social distancing restrictions change. We want to give the Task Force time to develop plans and time to allow for parent input. Our goal is to build plans that best meet the needs of our students and make the most of every in-person learning opportunity we are allowed to have within the severe budget constraints we must work within.

It’s important to know that, just when we need additional funding the most, all Colorado school districts including LPS are facing some of the biggest budget cuts we’ve ever had. We are being told that, due to the negative effects of COVID-19 on Colorado’s economy, the state budget will decrease by $3.3 billion for next year. Funds for public education in Colorado will be slashed nearly $577 million. This means that LPS will have to cut anywhere between $9.5 million and $10 million, beginning in 2020-2021 and continuing for the next few years until Colorado’s economy recovers. In our students’ and families’ most critical time of need in our district’s history, we must find multiple ways to provide meaningful learning, both in person and online simultaneously, with significantly less money. I cannot stress enough how concerning these budget challenges are to me and to superintendents across Colorado.

We intend to have more detail about what school will look like in the fall sometime in July. We also hope to have information about opening school age child care when in person learning returns. In the meantime, I encourage parents to consider visiting with their employers and childcare providers about the possibility of a hybrid school model in the fall that must change as health department restrictions change.

We will continue to work regularly with the Governor's Office, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Tri-County Health, the Colorado Department of Education, and with other Front Range school district leaders. LPS will open schools, athletics and activities and school age child care under the framework, guidance and restrictions put in place by the health departments and/or Governor Polis. We want to have students physically back in school as much as possible, but it is our responsibility to adhere to the advice of our health department officials to make sure we are keeping our students, families and employees safe.

This is by far the most challenging work today’s educators have ever done. But, I am fully confident that the outstanding professionals in LPS and the caring, thoughtful parents and members of this community are up to the challenge. All of our best thinking is focused on this issue. We will communicate regularly with all of you throughout the summer to report on the work of the Task Force and decisions that are being made along the way. 

Thank you for your support and confidence in us as we continue to do our very best for your children.

Best regards,

Brian Ewert