Reintroduction Update September 23

Back Together BVSD
Carolyn Nohe

En Español

Dear Boulder Valley Families, Students and Staff,

Last night, during our Board of Education meeting we had several important updates that I want to share with you.

Our Working Advisory Group has finished their efforts and we heard their recommendations for safely returning Boulder Valley School District students to in-person learning this fall, in Phase 2+.

Additionally, we also heard from Boulder County Public Health regarding the developing situation at the University of Colorado Boulder, the COVID-19 indicators that they are monitoring, and their recommendation that we cautiously move forward given the current data and efforts being taken by the university.

As a result, Boulder Valley School District is continuing to move forward, cautiously, with its staggered and differentiated plan to return students to the classroom – beginning next Tuesday, September 29, with the groups listed in the chart below – but working towards including all BVSD students in coming weeks.

In this email:

  • CU situation and BVSD’s return to in-person learning

  • COVID-19 Health Indicators & Current Conditions

  • Our Safety Measures

  • Working Advisory Group Recommendations

CU situation and BVSD’s return to in-person learning
As we have communicated, the recent increase in cases in Boulder County is something that is worthy of our attention. Last night, however, our partners at Boulder County Public Health shared additional information indicating that while there has been a surge in cases, they have largely been contained to individuals affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder, primarily students.

WATCH: Boulder County Public Health presentation during September 22, 2020 Board Meeting

Cases in the rest of Boulder County have not mirrored the University’s situation. They have remained relatively stable, leading BCPH to believe that the current outbreak is largely contained to the university. 

As a result, BCPH Executive Director Jeff Zayach supports our plans to return students to learning next week, with an ever careful eye on the health indicators that they are monitoring, with social distancing, mask-wearing, and attention to personal hygiene.

COVID-19 Health Indicators & Current Conditions
As we have shared previously, there are five indicators that we will monitor to determine whether students can be safely in school and, if so, what mode of learning (In-Person, Hybrid and Remote) is appropriate. 

I will mention that BCPH’s definitions for these modes of learning slightly differ from how we have used the terms previously, so let me share BCPH’s definition here:

  • In-Person – Full return of students in all grades, with no required social distancing (Phase 4-5)

  • Hybrid – Partial return of students. (Phased 1+,  2+ and Phase 3)

  • Remote – All students are in Home Learning. Depending on the situation there may be exceptions for small group instruction for students with the most intensive needs. (Phase 1 and 2)

Below is a table with all of the indicators. We have additional information on our website in our Health and Safety Precautions section.

Community Indicators*

Remote

Hybrid

In-person

14 day case rate/100,000 past 2 weeks

>100

50-100

<50

Trend in Case Rates past 2 weeks

>50% increase

25-50% increase

<25% increase

Percent Positivity in Testing

>7%

5% - 7%

<5%

Trend in case rates 5-17 yr olds past 2 weeks

>50% increase

25-50% increase

<25% increase

At least 85% of assigned COVID cases contacted within 24 hrs.

<40%

40-85%

>85%

 

As BCPH shared last night an indicator in the red is reason for heightened alert, further investigation and discussion, but does not automatically necessitate BVSD move to a different phase.

The health and safety of our students, staff and community are our paramount priority. BVSD and BCPH are working to balance the physical health and safety of students with social, emotional and learning needs. While our public health partners work to get the cases at CU under control, they are recommending that we proceed with reintroduction, cautiously.

Our Safety Measures
As we have previously shared, we have a layered approach when it comes to health and safety precautions. Our partners in public health are confident with the measures we have in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, including daily screenings, face coverings, frequent handwashing and increased cleaning. Through our partnership with our local public health agencies, we will be able to respond quickly whenever there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, quarantining student groups or, at times, schools, to avoid transmission among our students and staff. 

Social distancing remains an important measure in our fight against COVID-19. In an effort to do everything possible to protect our students and staff, especially given the current situation, we are integrating social distance into our classrooms in time for the return of K-2 students next week. Students will be physically distanced as much as possible. 

Working Advisory Group Recommendations
Our goal from the beginning has been to return all students to in-person learning and, as you know, our Working Advisory Group has been exploring ways to make that happen safely and given some of the logistical challenges we face.

Last night they shared the remainder of their recommendations, which focus on a differentiated and staggered re-entry for different grade levels between now and mid-November. The committee is suggesting that instruction will look a bit different at different grade levels.

WATCH: BVSD Area Superintendent Sam Messier shares the Working Advisory Group’s recommendations during the Board Meeting on September 22, 2020

Here are the recommendations briefly (please note we are still assessing feasibility):

  • Our youngest students and those in intensive special education programs remain first priority for in-person learning.

    • All K-2 students will still have the opportunity for four days of in-person instruction

    • Special education students in intensive programs in grades 3-12 will have two days of in-person instruction.

  • Joining them will be our newcomer students who are transitioning into BVSD from other countries around the world.

  • Preschoolers will quickly follow on October 6, attending school in-person two days a week.

  • If feasible, the remainder of elementary students will return in October and November four days a week.

  • Secondary students will return one-day a week for in-person instruction, beginning with students in the transition years (6th and 9th grade). A week later, if feasible, the remainder of the middle and high school students will have their opportunity to join a four-day rotation.

Here is a graph that helps to show the recommendations:


Again, these are the dates that were recommended by the committee. Our team is now in the process of working with our schools and assessing the feasibility of each. Our capability to move forward and the speed that we will be able to do that will be dependent on a number of factors, including the situation with COVID-19, which continues to evolve, as well as the availability of staffing and space in our buildings.

A primary challenge arises from implementing the social distancing requirement. Reducing class and group sizes necessarily requires more space to serve the same population. As long as our K-2 students are in-person four days, there is likely not enough space in elementary schools to move forward with the remainder of elementary grades.

Similarly, at the secondary level, we are certain we can return students in transition years (6th and 9th grades), but it will be more difficult to bring back the remainder of our students, as long as enhanced physical distancing and cohorting recommendations remain in effect.

We will continue to work collaboratively with our employees and our public health partners, as we work towards these objectives and are dedicated to providing updates along the way. 

Additional Supports for Our Teachers
Speaking of our staff – I am also proud to share that the committee has brought forward several great ideas for supporting our teachers that are doing this great work, including:

  • Video lessons: Continue to record lessons by master teachers that can be uploaded to Schoology or SeeSaw. CLICK HERE to learn more about this outstanding work.

  • Virtual Forum: A panel session with district staff so that teachers who are returning to in-person can ask questions about safety and logistics.

  • Resource Bank: Create a library of home learning best practices and professional learning supports around how best to utilize remote learning time.  Allow schools to submit resources that have worked well for them. 

Questions?
Join us for our next Let’s Talk episode on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Tune in on Comcast Channel 22 or via livestream at bvsd.org/bv22You can submit your questions about Phase 2+ here.

We will also continue to update our FAQs regularly here as well as our Phase 2+ plan page.

 

My team and I remain focused on the four priorities that we set at the very beginning of this process.

We are excited that we will soon be Back Together BVSD, and I want to remind everyone that we all play a role in making this plan successful. Continuing to take the health precautions seriously, ensures that we have the ability to move forward, when it is time.

By starting small, we are certain that we can show our entire community that this can be done safely, opening up additional opportunities moving forward.
 

Sincerely,

Rob Anderson
Superintendent
Boulder Valley School District


 

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