BVSD planning to start in Phase 3- Blended Learning

Back Together BVSD
Carolyn Nohe
 

Dear Boulder Valley School District Families,

As you have likely seen, communities across the country and here in Colorado are grappling with the decision regarding whether to offer in-person learning this fall – as well as whether students, teachers and families will feel safe enough to attend, if option is provided.

Here in Boulder Valley, we understand both sides and have received A LOT of feedback from both perspectives. 

We remain dedicated to making decisions, not based on emotion and fear, but rather on the best data available and the expert advice of our partners in public health. We also are committed to doing our best, whenever possible, to strike the right balance for our community. 

It is paramount that we keep our students, teachers and community safe. Nothing is more important than protecting lives.

We also know that being out of school is having a significant impact on our students and families. Without in-person instruction and activities, many students are struggling academically and socially-emotionally, not to mention that parents rely on school so they can go to work.

In This Letter:

 

This is a pandemic. We cannot expect things to be normal

We are in the middle of a pandemic. It is an international public health crisis. Just like a wildfire or a 100-year flood, we cannot expect things to be normal right now, as much as we all would like it to be.

In Colorado, we are continuing to see an uptick in cases, which has kept Boulder County from moving to the next phase, (Protect Our Neighbors). We, thankfully, are not seeing the exponential growth being reported in places like Florida or Texas.

I must emphasize that any in-person learning this year will be unlike what we have considered normal in the past. Options will be limited and will be focused on supporting students academically and providing them an opportunity to be with their peers. 

Our Plans for Back to School

While all of this is enough to make anyone frustrated, we have continued to work closely with our partners in public health to determine the best path forward as guidelines and the situation changes.

Our goal will be to engage all students in learning, while providing opportunities for in-person learning for those that are able and willing to interact with others in a safe way during this health crisis. 

Given the current situation with COVID-19 here in Boulder and Broomfield counties, our local public health agencies feel that it is possible to open schools, as long as students are kept in small consistent socially-distanced groups. As a result, we are planning to start the school year a week later than planned in Phase 3, unless the situation worsens significantly. 

By starting on August 26 we will be able to provide an extra week for us to train our staff on new protocols, as well as giving them extra time to plan and improve their practices around Home Learning.

As the CDC notes, the risk of transmission in schools is the highest when there are “full-sized, in-person classes, activities and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials, and mix between classes”. 

In consultation with Boulder County and Broomfield public health departments, Phase 3 has been developed to allow for students to return to in-person learning in a way that significantly reduces the risk of the transmission of COVID-19.

I will not sugarcoat this. This situation is not ideal. The planning, educators around the world have been doing during this pandemic, is perhaps the most complex work ever seen in education. The requirements to group students and teachers and to keep everyone separated during the school day is extremely challenging. What makes this situation even more difficult is the fact that we are expected to meet rules that continue to change.

Our 5-phase Back Together BVSD plan was built to provide us with flexibility to meet whatever situation we face – including the possibility of more restrictive social-distancing requirements from the state or local public health agencies. If community spread continues to increase or there is a spike in cases, it may be necessary to move to Phase 1 for the beginning of school or at times during the school year.
 

What will this look like for our students and teachers?

 

As you may recall, in Phase 3, we offer blended learning environments during a four-day school week, although it will look slightly different at each level

  • Preschool Students: Blended learning: One day of in-person learning, in which students who stay home will be able to continue to engage in learning remotely by completing online assignments, reviewing pre-recorded content and/or livestreaming classroom instruction. For more information regarding Preschool schedules, see this document.


  • K-8 Students: Blended learning: Two days of in-person learning, in which students who stay home will be able to continue to engage in learning remotely by completing online assignments, reviewing pre-recorded content and/or livestreaming classroom instruction.

  • High School Students: Home Learning with drop-in learning support: students will have the opportunity to receive in-person support based on their individual academic needs.

 

In-Person Learning

Students who choose to participate in in-person learning will be required to go through passive health screenings on the days they go to school and take health precautions throughout the day. 

In the classroom, students will be spaced at least six feet apart, limiting the number of students we can have in the building at any given time. Students will only have limited access to areas in the buildings, including designated bathrooms.

Recess
Students will have an opportunity to play outside and on the playground, and will be kept in their groups (cohorts).  They will not be required to wear masks outside as long as they can maintain 6’ of distance from each other. Recess times will be spread out over the day to ensure each group remains separated from each other.

Outdoor Learning 
We will be working to take full advantage of outdoor learning spaces, our beautiful school campuses, parks and other outdoor facilities, whenever the weather permits. Our team is working to identify outdoor learning spaces.

Child Care
BVSD School Aged Care will be provided for children in our K-5 and K-8 schools five days per week. BVSD will ensure all elementary-aged children whose families need M-F custodial care are provided with affordable options at our schools. BVSD will provide preschool child care M-F at select elementary schools. We will also provide Infant and toddler child care M-F at our Arapahoe Ridge child care center.

All BVSD Community Schools Child Care Programs are state licensed and will run in our schools in accordance with state child care licensing requirements and public health guidelines. Please visit https://childcare.bvsd.org/ for more detailed program information, updates, and registration.

Mondays: Weekly Learning Launch at Home

In reviewing feedback from our families, the plans of neighboring school districts and updated guidance from our partners in public health –  we have decided that Monday will be our learning launch for the week using home learning for all students without teacher contact. 

By closing our schools on Mondays, we will be able to provide our educators with needed planning time for this hybrid learning model. 

While previous communications mentioned the possibility of using Wednesday as a deep cleaning day, we will instead be doing increased cleaning during the day and disinfecting every night, thus removing the need for a day off in between two groups of students.

Special Education
Students with significant needs (those in ILC, ICAN and Day Treatment Centers) will have the opportunity, if they are willing and medically able, to participate in four days of in-person learning. Two days will be in the intensive special education environment and two days will be in a general education cohort. Learn more by CLICKING HERE.
 

Improved Home Learning

On the days students are not at school, students will participate in Home Learning. They will typically have opportunities to check in with their teachers virtually on those days, but will largely participate in assignments that can be completed independently. We will be able to provide more specifics about the Home Learning only option next week, as we have a firmer understanding of how many students plan to participate in this option. Here is what we know right now: Home Learning only will be taught by a BVSD teacher, connected to the student’s enrolled school with as many in-class connections as possible using the existing SeeSaw and Schoology platforms. We are striving to provide students with an opportunity to continue to interact with their school community – while meeting their need to stay home. 
 

More Training and Resources
Knowing that remote and blended learning will continue to play a significant role this school year, our district support team has created a bank of over 1000 video resources for teachers, pre-built instructional units with embedded online and blended learning instructional tools, and numerous virtual training sessions. Additionally, as a result of the school year beginning one week later, teachers will receive a full week of support from district staff in preparing online content and setting expectations for home learning this fall, including time to plan and tailor lessons around all phases of reintroduction. We will also launch training opportunities through videos and live streaming for parents in Spanish and English on topics relevant to online platforms and home learning. 

Improved Expectations
We have developed a more cohesive vision for what Home Learning will be and during the extended training with teachers, we will be working to ensure that everyone understands our unified approach, which will be more comprehensive and coordinated. In other words, regardless of where a student attends school – they can expect to receive the same:

  • Level of consistency across schools through unit alignment 

  • Amount of direct interaction and support from their teacher

  • Frequency of communication from schools and teachers (weekly feedback)

  • Location for assignments all in one place using a SeeSaw for K-3 and Schoology for 4-12

Access to Instruction
When we transitioned to Home Learning last spring, great efforts were made to ensure every student had access to a computer and the Internet.

If you know of anyone that we might have missed, have them call our IT department at 720-561-HELP. We are dedicated to ensuring that every student has the ability to participate.

Special Education
Students who need to remain home or those whose parents choose to keep them home due to health concerns will access learning remotely through synchronous or asynchronous learning. The majority of special ed and general education instructional access can be offered with a live video meeting. Learn more by CLICKING HERE.

How we are protecting teachers, students and our community

BVSD takes its responsibility of protecting our students, staff and community seriously.

We have developed a plan, which incorporates the best practices currently known to minimize the spread of the virus and we are committed to continually updating these efforts as more is learned about COVID-19.

  • Students will be grouped in cohorts and socially distanced in the classroom
    Social distancing limits infection while cohorts (small consistent groups of students) limits and tracks the spread. 

    • Social Distancing in the Classroom: BVSD will meet physical distancing standards in school facilities to the greatest extent possible, including at least six feet between desks, in accordance with national, state, and local guidance. 

    • Cohorts: students will be assigned to groups, allowing schools to manage interactions and quickly investigate, contact trace and quarantine those that may have been exposed to the virus.
       

  • Health checks for staff and students
    In Phase 3, passive (at home) health screening will be conducted for students and staff. This includes temperature and symptom checks. Staff or students exhibiting COVID symptoms or who have been in contact with a person exhibiting symptoms,  will be excluded from the building. 

  • Focused cleaning on high-touch areas (e.g. door knobs, sinks, manipulatives, desks, seats, etc)
    To reduce the spread of the virus in buildings, custodians will clean and disinfect high-touch, shared spaces daily. Bathrooms shall be cleaned multiple times each day. Cafeteria tables will be cleaned and disinfected between each group of students. Staff will be cleaning and disinfecting restrooms and high touch surfaces during the day and cleaning/disinfecting every night.

  • Encouraging students to wash their hands often with soap and water or to use hand sanitizer frequently
    Students will be given frequent opportunities to wash their hands and have ample access to sanitizing stations. Students will wash hands when: arriving and leaving home; arriving at and leaving school; after playing outside; after having close contact with others; after using shared surfaces or tools; before and after using the restroom; after blowing their nose, coughing, and sneezing; and before and after eating and preparing foods.

  • Train staff and students on all safety protocols
    12-month Operational employees have been or will be trained on COVID safety protocols related to their job functions and personal health and well-being. Upon returning to work in August, all other staff and students will be provided training on COVID safety protocols for working in and maintaining a safe environment as well as personal health and well-being.

  • Required Face Covers/Masks 
    All students and staff will be required to wear face covers in alignment with public health orders, including during arrival, dismissal, while indoors, and when physical distancing is not possible outdoors. Exceptions to this requirement will be made for health or education reasons, as well as during lunch and times when students are socially distanced.

    • Essential Protective Gear for staff
      Employees who interact with students or the public will be provided protective gear to help keep them safe in the classroom, office and other interactions. This includes face covers (reusable and disposable), gloves, hand sanitizer, face shields and safety glasses.

    • Students will provide their own cloth face covers
      Students will be asked to wear a clean face cover and to have a backup every time they attend school. We would suggest students consider having multiple face covers, so they can be laundered, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

      Face covers will be available for those students that cannot afford them or forget to bring one to school.

  • 24" x 36" desktop partition to be provided for individualized instruction
    BVSD has purchased plexiglass partitions to add additional protection during individual instruction between a staff member and a student. 
  • Changes to Ventilation
    Maintenance staff will ensure ventilation systems operate properly and will increase the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. Teachers will be encouraged to open windows if doing so will not pose a safety or health risk (e.g. triggering asthma symptoms) to staff or students. Staff are communicating with public health partners and our indoor air quality consultants about the best approaches for cooling buildings without air conditioning. Our plans will be updated to reflect the guidance we receive. 

 

Preparing for the inevitable

As we discussed earlier, we are taking extensive precautions. 

If someone exhibits symptoms or tests positive, we will have a plan in place to work with the public health department to investigate, identify and notify those impacted through effective contact tracing. Anyone who is quarantined will have the opportunity to continue learning. We will share more details about this plan in our next update.

It is likely that over the course of the school year, different in-person cohorts or entire schools will be required to move to Phase 1 (Home Learning ONLY) for two weeks or longer because of confirmed or possible exposures to COVID-19.

Transitioning Between Phases

We will provide families and staff with at least two weeks advanced notice before moving up to a higher phase (i.e. increase from Phase 3 to Phase 4). These decisions will be made in partnership with our partners in public health, based on the latest information about COVID-19 in our community.

When necessary, downward transitions (example, Phase 3 to Phase 1) will most likely be immediate and will be communicated through emergency messaging similar to the system used to inform families, staff and students (secondary) about weather closures. Once the required closure/quarantine period is completed, cohorts and/or schools will return to the previous phase, in most cases.

Let us know your plans for the fall- Action needed

In Phase 3 of our reintroduction plan, all students will have the opportunity to attend in-person learning opportunities. However, families may choose to not take advantage of those opportunities either by only participating in Home Learning through their home school or by enrolling in BU for the semester.

Please Note: We recognize that there might have been some confusion after last night’s Board of Education presentation, because we spoke about Boulder Universal as being our 100% online learning option. Students also have the option to choose Home Learning only through their student’s current school.

In order to help us plan for the start of the school year, we ask that families who are NOT planning to attend in-person learning notify our district by updating their in-person learning preferences within IC. 


Families who do not complete this form in IC will be expected to attend in-person learning opportunities provided this fall-- pending the Phase of Reintroduction.

 

Phase 3 Default

Blended learning (including in-person and Home Learning)

Phase 3: Opt-out of In-person


Home Learning ONLY

Phase 3:

Online Only

Via Boulder Universal for semester-long commitment

Enrolled School  Through student’s current school Through student’s current school Through Boulder Universal
In person /Home Learning

Two Days: In-person

If permitted by the situation with COVID-19 students will meet twice a week in-person, with strict social distancing and cohort restrictions. 


Three Days: Home Learning
The other two days, they will learn from home with teachers from their home school. Mondays will be a non-student contact day, but students will have independent assignments this day.

Five Days: Home Learning

They will learn from home with teachers from their home school Tuesday-Friday. Mondays will be a non-student contact day, but students will have independent assignments this day.

Five days: Online learning

They will learn from BU teachers

Why choose this? This is the default Phase 3, to allow students 2 days of in-person learning.

This option provides flexibility as students could return to the classroom at a later time if families became more comfortable. Students will stay enrolled at their current school and interact with their teachers.

If you know you will receive 100% online instruction regardless of phase/ circumstance. BU is a commitment for the semester. Learn more at bu.bvsd.org.
What do I need to do now? If you wish to have your student attend 2 days of in-person learning, no other action is needed. Follow these instructions to opt-out of in-person learning through Infinite Campus.

If you are unsure if you wish to enroll in BU, follow these instructions to opt out of in person learning through Infinite Campus so that we know you are not planning to attend in person.


If you are committed to enroll in BU, see more information and form on this page.

 

See this document for instructions on updating your in person learning preferences within IC.

On this same form,  there is an opportunity for families to share if they are interested in paid child care on the days they are scheduled to be in Home Learning.

We know it is a short timeline, but in order to start preparing, we ask that if you know your student/s will not return to in person learning, you complete the form by Friday July 24. Please note you can still opt out in the future if you wish.

Additional Support for Students Now and in the Future
As we work to support teachers in their preparation for a school year filled with unknowns and potentially high levels of anxiety, we believe it is important to start the year with a focus on meeting the social-emotional needs of students. The first weeks of the school year will provide time for teachers to engage their students on these needs, as well as identify their current subject knowledge before moving into more rigorous academic content. 

We are also planning for what happens when the pandemic eventually ends. We will be providing additional educational opportunities outside of normal school hours for students who may need additional support.

Support your BVSD School
We understand that many families are wrestling with the limited options that are available and how to best support their students during this unprecedented and unpredictable time. We respect this and understand why some in our community are considering alternative options to supplement their student’s learning.

Please know that Boulder Valley School District remains committed to excellence and equity and will continue to do its best to meet the needs of our students, during this far-from-ideal moment in time. 

It is important that everyone remember that enrollment decisions do have impacts on the wonderful BVSD schools that you know and love. While we have provided some flexibility so that students can take advantage of Boulder Universal during this difficult time, withdrawing students from the district altogether is not the same.

Funding follows the student. If they are no longer enrolled in BVSD – even if it is just for one year -- funding leaves the district. This can have a profound, long term impact on our schools. We may not be able to retain all of our outstanding teachers and staff and it may take years for schools to rebuild.

Please stick with Boulder Valley during this difficult time. This pandemic will not last forever and we want to make sure that we are able to snap back to where we were at when this is all over.

Opportunities to Learn More
We know that many families may have additional questions, so we have set up a few ways for you to engage the district and learn more about our plan and to get answers.

Back Together BVSD Website
Our plan and Frequently Asked Questions have been placed on our reintroduction website: https://www.bvsd.org/reintroduction
 

Let’s Talk BVSD (Engagement Website)
You can join the conversation and stay updated as we continue to move towards the school year through our new public engagement website, letstalk.bvsd.org.

Simply register at https://letstalk.bvsd.org/register

Let’s Talk Education (BV22 TV Show)
On Thursday, July 23 at 5 p.m. we will talk more about the Back Together BVSD plan on our Let’s Talk Education show on BV22 (Comcast Channel 22 or livestream at www.bvsd.org/bv22). If you have questions, submit them via the letstalk.bvsd.org website.

Thank you for your continued support and patience. We are committed to continuing to keep you updated on the situation. Our next update will be in two weeks.

 

Sincerely,

Rob Anderson
Superintendent
Boulder Valley School District


 

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