Spring break will be extended two days, school-sponsored travel will be canceled and use of school buildings by outside groups will be curtailed in an effort to keep Durango School District 9-R free of COVID-19.
The changes were made Thursday along with an array of measures, such as bolstering cleaning procedures for buses and tracking symptoms of students and staff members who call in sick to monitor a spike in coronavirus-like symptoms.
Spring break will be extended by two days – to March 25 instead of March 23. March 30 is scheduled to be professional development day.
Teachers will work the two extra days of spring break.
The district will take those days along with March 30 to provide teachers with assistance in developing at-home learning materials for students whose parents choose to self-quarantine after spring break.
In Bayfield, the school district closed all sports, activities, travel, field trips, sports team practices and trainings at the end of Thursday through April 6. The only exception is Friday’s performance of the spring play at the Performing Arts Center.
Also, all Bayfield schools will be closed over spring break beginning March 16 through March 23. Students will return March 24.
On March 23, after Bayfield’s spring break, a required staff-only day will be used to assess the situation, according to an email sent by Dot Clemens, Bayfield School District’s director of human resources.
Durango School District Superintendent Dan Snowberger also discouraged spring break travel.
“We know that there are a number of people who have plans to travel overseas, and we certainly have no control over that. But we’re encouraging parents to consider self-quarantine. In my call last night to parents, the message was: If you’re going to an area, you know, that is dangerous, do consider self-quarantine,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Snowberger said he has received calls from parents worried about the spread of the virus after spring break, when many families travel.
“I think that was one of our questions about spring break is that it’s a prime time to get exposed, and we know of families who are going overseas, and whether they still are or not, we don’t know,” he said.
The professional development days will be used to provide teachers with a template for adapting lesson plans for at-home study.
“We have a number of resources in the district that have at-home potential,” Snowberger said. “We want to make sure that what we provide is accessible to all. So we’re not looking at internet-based tools because we know many of our families don’t have access, certainly our families in remote locations where they don’t have access to internet.”
The district is working on creating electronic access opportunities for self-quarantined students and their parents to talk with teachers during office hours either via telephones or, in this particular case, the internet, he said.
“So, there will be some training that we’re going to need to really help our teachers think through this. Because what we do in class is not something we can just put on paper. So we’ll be talking to staff around videos and other material they can do to explain topics,” he said.
Adaptations to COVID-19 came after hours of planning sessions to deal with the worldwide outbreak, which so far has left Southwest Colorado relatively unscathed.
As of Thursday, no one in La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, Dolores or San Juan counties had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
In an attempt to limit students’ exposure to the coronavirus, 9-R also has decided to:
Cancel all district- and school-sponsored travel for students through April 6. The Colorado High School Activities Association has canceled school sporting events also through April 6.Cancel all staff domestic and international travel for professional development through April 6.Close all school buildings to use by outside groups through April 6. Snowberger said the evening meetings do not give the district enough time to sterilize buildings for students the next school day.After-school use of buildings largely will be curtailed, Snowberger said, except for Kid Camp, the district’s child care program.
The Destination Imagination event planned for Saturday has been canceled as has History Day, planned for Friday at Fort Lewis College.
The district will follow recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment if a student is exposed.
Those protocols require:
Any school with a confirmed case of COVID-19 to close for at least 72 hours for cleaning and social distancing.Any school with a second confirmed case within a 30-day period to close for a second minimum 72-hour closure.Any school with a third confirmed case within 30 days to close for 14 days of cleaning, testing and a health investigation.Any school that is closed to partner with its local public health agency to conduct contact tracing and further COVID-19 testing.In addition, the CDPHE protocols guide districts to consider closures by taking into account families with students in multiple buildings, shared facilities, shared transportation, central kitchens and shared staff.
Next week, the district will devote extra training so custodians can do deep cleanings. Enhanced cleaning products are expected to arrive next week.
The district’s decisions were made after consultation with San Juan Basin Public Health.
Shere Byrd, 9-R school board president, said the district will be guided by SJBPH should schools need to be closed after an exposure. She said the public health agency is the local expert in epidemiology and has the power to order school closures.
District staff also will re-evaluate the situation as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and will communicate additional changes or updates about travel restrictions.
Anyone with questions about 9-R’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak can go to the 9-R COVID-19 Coronavirus Response webpage or any school website.
Snowberger said, “You know, my biggest fear: If anyone of us gets sick, we’re probably fine. It’s taking it home to grandparents or some of our kids who are medically fragile, especially special-education students. So we think the caution is well worth it to protect them.”
The goal, Snowberger said, is to take as many precautions as possible to avoid a positive test result and a school closure.
“My goal will be to keep schools open as much as we can. Knowing that we have many families who just aren’t set up or prepared to keep an 8-year-old staying home alone – because mom and dad have to go to work. That is really concerning to me.”
The district will err on the side of caution in closing schools, he said, but he hoped it wouldn’t come to that, for the sake of parents and students.
“You know, our parents, who have means, some certainly would probably prefer we close. But what they don’t think about is we have parents who are living paycheck to paycheck, and who if they don’t go to work, they can’t get paid.”