Dear LPS Staff, Parents and Community Members:
As school leaders, one of the biggest challenges we are facing during this pandemic is knowing what kind of learning model we should start the school year in and how we should determine if/when that learning model should change to provide the best learning environment possible while keeping our students and staff safe. It’s critical that our students get a good start to the school year and continue to learn and thrive. To do that, our students and staff must have the best chance possible of staying healthy.
We must rely on information provided by our local public health experts to help guide us in our conversations and decisions.
As part of the regularly scheduled LPS Board of Education meeting Thursday, July 30, 2020, the Board heard our most recent recommendations for making these decisions based on health department data to ensure we can effectively and safely begin the school year this fall.
This new decision-making process uses Arapahoe County’s COVID-19 data as reported by Tri-County Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This process helps us ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, decisions about school both at the start of the year and in the months to come are based on science and facts, not popularity, pressure, perception or politics. This approach to decision-making is endorsed by Dr. John Douglas, executive director of the Tri-County Health Department.
There are four sets of data we will evaluate when making decisions about school:
Percent of positive COVID-19 tests in Arapahoe County: daily and 14-day rolling average
Daily hospitalizations in Arapahoe County
14-day COVID-19 incident rates per 100,000 Arapahoe County residents
Daily new COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County
Earlier this month, health department information suggested that a return to in-person learning for all of our students would be possible. But, the COVID-19 rate in our community has increased since then. Looking at the COVID-19 data listed above, we believe a change to our plans for the start of school is necessary.
As of today, our plans for the start of school are as follows:
First day of school: August 24, 2020
Preschool–5th: All students return to in-person learning with overlapping extensive health and safety protocols in place
6th–12th: Hybrid/blended model of both in-person and remote learning, where students attend school in person with their teachers two days a week with overlapping extensive health and safety protocols in place, and engage in learning remotely from home the other three days. This model allows for greater physical distancing, as only half of the students will be at school at the same time.
This approach is fully aligned with the research and the recommendations of pediatricians and other health experts regarding what is safe for preschool and elementary-age students (who have less risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19) and what is safe for middle and high school students (who are more at risk due to their age).
Please know that these plans for the start of school are subject to change should health department data indicate a change is necessary. Administration will provide an update on August 13, 2020 with the health department data available at that time.
This fall’s remote learning model will be one that is consistent, robust, and engaging for our students. Teachers will receive training through the new online LPS Educator Academies, which will help them implement best practices and provide consistency for students within schools and across the district. Training will be provided for families through the new online LPS Family Academy, which will help family members support their children as they learn at home. These training platforms will be available in early August, and details about how to access them will be provided at that time.
The Temporary Online Program for Students (TOPS) will begin as scheduled on Monday, August 31, 2020. The TOPS registration deadline is Friday, August 7, 2020. The course catalog is now available on the TOPS web page. The schedule will not be affected by COVID-19 data.
We will continue to monitor Arapahoe County COVID-19 data and use it to guide our decisions. The learning model we implement will be directly tied to how well our community responds to the pandemic and is likely to change throughout the fall. We will be ready.
I invite you to review my presentation regarding the decision-making process and our most recent plans for the start of school. I also invite you to review the Restart 2020–2021 presentation that outlines these plans at a high level. A recording of the July 30 Board of Education meeting will be available in the next few days, as well.
School leaders will communicate to parents the details specific to their schools early next week related to the start of the school year.
Thank you for your continued support, patience, trust and flexibility as we prepare to begin the new school year safely and effectively.