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Littleton Public Schools will return to in-person learning for all of our students in August 2020

LPS to Begin August 24; Pre-K–Grade 5 In-Person, Grades 6–12 Hybrid

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 below, 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. 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.


Remote Learning
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.

TOPS
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. 

Decision-Making Process

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. 

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:

  1. Percent of positive COVID-19 tests in Arapahoe County: daily and 14-day rolling average

  2. Daily hospitalizations in Arapahoe County

  3. 14-day COVID-19 incident rates per 100,000 Arapahoe County residents

  4. Daily new COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County


View the presentation regarding the decision-making process and our most recent plans for the start of school:

Restart Presentation - July 30
Restart Presentation from July 30 BOE Meeting

Additionally, 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 coming days. 

The Return to In-Person Learning

Students, staff, parents and community members must work together every day to make the start of the school year successful. We will follow the guidance of health officials and will implement the public health and safety measures in place at the time that are shown to limit spread of the virus, such as mask wearing, health screenings, frequent hand washing and maintaining physical distancing to the greatest extent possible.

We all must have patience and must be dedicated to following the safety protocols at every school, every day. It will not be perfect, but please know we are committed to doing our best to keep everyone safe. Our chances to continue and maintain an in-person learning model increase with the successful implementation of safety precautions. 

It’s also critical that we all continue to remain flexible and open to change. The circumstances around the pandemic and the return to school this fall seem to change daily.

Masks and Health Screenings

  • Happy elementary student in hallway, wearing mask and social distancingAll staff and all students in kindergarten through Grade 12, including Transition Services, will be required to wear masks with breaks throughout the day
    • At this time, students are expected to provide their own masks
    • If a mask is left at home, one will be provided
    • Health officials say that mask-wearing protects teachers and other adults in the building as much as it protects the students
  • Preschool students will not be required to wear masks at this time, but they will be learning how to wear them at school in a developmentally appropriate way.
    • More details will be provided to preschool families soon
  • Additional information will be communicated to families whose students may need special accommodations regarding mask wearing
  • All students and staff will have a daily health screening
    • This will be differentiated by level and will include self-screening and screening by school staff

Face Coverings Do's and Don'ts

Physical Distancing

  • Physical distancing guidelines within a school setting are different than those out in the community 
  • Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students maintain 3 to 6 feet of distance or to the degree possible while in the classroom, if students and staff members are wearing masks and are symptom free

The Learning Environment

  • Classroom furniture will be arranged to maintain recommended 3 to 6 feet physical distancing as much as possible 
  • Student movement around the school throughout the day will be planned and organized to maintain physical distancing and minimize transitions as much as possible
    • Fewer students will be allowed in hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, food serving lines and on playgrounds at the same time
  • All school front entries and classrooms will have sanitation stations
    • Bottle of hand sanitizer in classroomStudents and staff will use these sanitation stations when they arrive at school, before lunch, before recess and as needed throughout the day
    • Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom and in every space in every school
    • Dispensers will be checked nightly and refilled
  • All areas inside schools, as well as playgrounds, will be cleaned and sanitized (following the protocols of local health officials) as frequently as possible
  • Drinking fountains will not be used
    • Students are expected to bring their own water bottle to school
    • Every school will have at least one bottle filling station (most have several)
    • Times to refill water bottles at these stations will be scheduled into the day to maintain physical distancing
  • Signage on walls and stickers on floors will help students maintain physical distancing 
  • Ventilation systems have been serviced and will be frequently checked to make sure indoor spaces are properly ventilated
  • Parents and visitors will not be allowed in schools during the school day at this time – as a general rule and in an effort to limit exposure
    • Each school will develop a process where parents and/or visitors may drop off materials that students need
  • Field trips, travel and large gatherings such as assemblies will not be scheduled at this time

Transportation

  • Little girl in face mask, two buns in her hairCurrent guidance from health officials limits ridership to maintain appropriate physical distancing
  • Buses will be cleaned after each route, before a new group of students is transported, in accordance with the guidance from health officials
  • Students will need to practice physical distancing at bus stops
    • We ask parents to help us in this effort
  • A limited number of students will be able to ride the bus due to physical distancing requirements
    • It will be necessary for significantly more parents to transport their students to and from school
    • High risk students will have priority
    • Students who require special transportation per their individual Education Program (IEP) will be provided transportation with health measures in place
    • Parents will receive more information soon from LPS Transportation about how bus ridership will be determined 
  • Plans will be in place at each school to keep students safe and physically distanced as much as possible when they arrive and enter the school, and when they leave at the end of the day

Meal Service

  • Physical distancing will be practiced during meal service
    • Schools will utilize cafeteria space, outdoor spaces, and possibly other locations - including classrooms - for meal service  
  • This change in meal service will help us keep the same students together in smaller groups as much as possible (cohort grouping) to limit exposure
  • Nutrition Services employees will wear masks, face shields and gloves
  • Meal service areas will be cleaned throughout the day

Improved Distance Learning

If a virus outbreak requires the closure of the district, individual schools or affects specific groups of students, we will be ready to serve students in an improved distance learning environment.

  • Teachers will receive additional training through the new online LPS Educator Academy, 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 know how to 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.

Temporary Online Program for Students (TOPS)

LPS will also provide a fully online school program for K-12 and Transition Services students during the 2020-21 school year only as an alternative to attending school in-person. 

  • This is a separate, virtual program that is not connected to the student’s home school, but is supported by licensed teachers from LPS schools  
  • Student distance learningTOPS is primarily designed for students who are either health compromised and COVID-vulnerable themselves or those who have family members who are
    • It is also available to families who simply do not feel comfortable sending their students back to in-person school at this time
  • There will be specific guidelines and timeframes outlining when students can return to their home school for in-person learning
  • Families should consider:
    • The social and emotional impact on their child
    • The student’s desire and ability to do online learning
    • The availability of adults to help and support the student at home 
  • Students in TOPS will be able to participate in before- and after-school extracurricular activities at their home school 
  • Students in TOPS will not be able to participate in any in-person classes at their home school during the school day
  • More details about TOPS and registration information will be sent to parents early the week of July 20th
  • The TOPS program begins August 31

More Information about TOPS

Child Care

School Age Child Care (SACC) will resume with the start of school on August 24. Likewise, preschool extended day options that include child care will resume with the start of school on August 24.

Next Steps: Schools & Programs Will Provide More Details in Early August

We know you have many additional questions and are eager for additional details. School leaders will communicate with families and staff at the beginning of August to outline additional details specific to their schools or programs.

Chalkboard: Together we can make this a successful relaunch

Budget Concerns

As we plan for our return to school in the fall, and 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. The negative effects of COVID-19 on Colorado’s economy are causing a $3.3 billion shortfall in the state budget for next year, and public education will take a huge hit. 

Littleton Public Schools will lose $9.5 million in state funding for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. LPS received about $6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds (CARES Act) that will help offset some of the budget shortfall next year. But, COVID-19 relief funds are only available for a short time and will not help LPS after the 2020-2021 school year. Therefore, deep cuts will continue for the next few years until Colorado’s economy recovers.

The LPS Board of Education has been grappling with these issues over the past few months. The Board passed a budget during its June 25, 2020 meeting that included additional cuts for next year, as COVID-19 relief dollars only cover part of the state’s deficit affecting LPS.  These cuts are in addition to the $4.2 million in cuts for next year that were decided back in December, 2019, which resulted in the loss of 17 positions at the central office and a variety of other reductions throughout the district.

There is no clear solution for Colorado schools at this time. The LPS Board is discussing the different kinds of local ballot measures it could ask the community to support this November. It’s important to remember that the State of Colorado has owed its public schools funding since 2002. Last year the amount owed was $572 million; next year, due to COVID-19, the amount owed will double to $1.1 billion. 

The Board will continue its conversations throughout the summer regarding how to face the budget crisis locally both now and in the years to come.