Poudre School District outlines possible scenarios for fall return to school
Poudre School District hopes to have students in classrooms when the 2020-21 school year starts in August.
The district's governing board on Tuesday was presented PSD’s plan for learning in the fall, with four possible scenarios outlined for how to continue education under potential public health restrictions meant to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The four scenarios, or "phases," as termed by the district, are:
- Phase 1: Schools are closed. Instruction is carried out remotely. This is how PSD ended the 2019-20 year after closing in March due to the spread of COVID-19.
- Phase 2: Limited in-person learning, with gatherings of 10 people or less. Most learning would be remote, but there could be limited in-person interaction in small groups.
- Phase 3: Hybrid model. Students are broken into "A" and "B" groups, with A in classrooms Monday and Wednesday and B in classrooms Tuesday and Thursday. Friday would be a day for at-home learning and teacher collaboration.
- Phase 4: All students in school all day. The district may limit classrooms to 20-25 people and would likely require health safety measures such as temperature checks, contact tracing and the use of personal protective equipment.
“It’s our desire to have our students in school every single day, all day, all of our students,” Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools Todd Lambert said. “I expect us to likely open the year in a likely hybrid model."
Which phase PSD will begin the school year with is expected to be decided at the start of August based on existing public health guidelines from county and state health departments.
Lambert said the district has worked closely with county health officials in drawing up the plan and feels confident that the fall semester will take place with Phases 3 and 4 used. The district's desire is to avoid using the more restrictive Phases 1 and 2. It's possible if there's an outbreak at a school for that school to shift to a different phase than what others in the district are using.
Lambert said he thinks its likely the district will start in Phase 3 in August for a short period and educate students on how Phase 4 will look. There will likely be changes, for instance, on how high schoolers navigate hallways between classes so not all students merge together at once.
District Superintendent Sandra Smyser also voiced the worry many parents, students and teachers feel about continuing online learning. She expressed optimism that any changes will be for the fall semester and that by early 2021 school can return to a more normal routine.
“We’re really only talking about first semester. By second semester, it’s looking more and more hopeful that we can go back to normal sometime after winter break, reasonably. All of that is to be determined still,” Smyser said.
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PSD is still working through some questions that come with altered schedules. In Phase 3, how will the district align family members of different grades to make sure they have the same schedule? How will scheduling of art, music, physical education and electives be handled? How to measure student performance following what was lost in the final months of the 2019-20 year?
PSD staff also said they’re continuing to work on training programs for teachers, should they resume teaching online.
More details on how education will be delivered are expected in PSD's June 23 Board of Education meeting.
Other items from Tuesday’s meeting:
- The board delayed a vote on extending the contract for school resource officers.
- There will be training and support for PSD staff and students regarding mental health, especially as it relates to challenges brought on by coronavirus.
- All full-time PSD employees will have child care services available if a hybrid model of teaching is in use. That option will be available for teachers with K-5th graders.
- A PSD survey with nearly 12,000 responses found 70% of parents and guardians are comfortable with students returning to school with social distancing in place, 7% are not comfortable with students returning and 23% might be comfortable with the return of students.
PSD is still waiting for state budget and School Finance Act approval, but the district said Tuesday it anticipates a roughly $11.3 million decrease in state funding and $5.3 million decrease in local funding for the coming fiscal year.
There’s also concern about a midyear recission and expectation that the financial impacts currently being felt due to the coronavirus pandemic will last for several years.
“I guess the silver lining, so to speak, is a slightly better state funding forecast,” Budget Director Brett Parsons said referring to an earlier forecast of $28 million in lost state funding. “Obviously, still a very bad situation for us and everyone else in the state that is more than likely going to be long term in nature.”
The district's final 2020-21 budget is expected to be adopted in the June 23 meeting ahead of the start of the new fiscal year in July.
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