La Plata County’s three school districts were traveling down separate paths preparing for the possibility that in-school learning might return after Gov. Jared Polis’ order closing schools expired May 1.
But Polis this week ordered all state schools remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the year, unifying planning for Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio schools.
Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said the district had been examining plans to reopen schools after April 30 with strict adherence to social-distancing and health rules from state and local health departments. Snowberger added that the district was going to give parents the option to continue with distance learning for their children.
The Bayfield school board voted unanimously last week to continue home-based learning for the remainder of the year.
Rocco Fuschetto, superintendent of the Ignacio School District, said the district was on hold – waiting to follow the lead of Polis about whether to allow in-school learning later this school year.
In Durango, one spring ritual, the prom, has been canceled.
Currently, plans for graduation in Durango are being discussed, Snowberger said.
Several radio stations have offered to broadcast a selected speech from a student who normally would present the address during a commencement ceremony.
Graduation committees at Durango High School and Big Picture High School are meeting to determine how to handle commencement ceremonies or if they will be held at all.
“Students, parents and staff in both of those committees really would love to postpone and wait for a time when we could do an in-person graduation. That’s their first choice,” Snowberger said.
But he added no decisions have been made.
Another possibility for a commencement ceremony might something akin to what the Air Force Academy did last weekend, with students 6 feet apart for social distancing and no audience in attendance. The Air Force ceremonies were broadcast so parents could see their children receive diplomas.
“We’ve got a variety of different options,” Snowberger said. He added he was meeting Wednesday afternoon with the DHS Graduation Committee to review options.
“I know from both committees, the last time they met ... they really were hoping that even if they waited until late June or even early August that we would be in a scenario where we could actually have an in-person graduation,” he said.
Colorado Politics, a news website, has reported that Polis advised all of the state’s school superintendents on a conference call to prepare for the possibility that in-school learning might not return until January 2021.
However, Fuschetto said he was on the conference call, and he never heard Polis warn superintendents about the possibility that in-school learning might not return until January 2021.
Fuschetto said the district plans to return to in-school learning this fall, possibly with the need to adhere to social distancing and other health requirements from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and San Juan Basin Public Health.
Snowberger said a worst-case scenario is always possible.
“I think a lot depends on our community and whether our curve will stay flat as we progress forward. I did not hear (Polis) mention that (to be prepared for distance learning until Jan. 1) this week, but I know that we’ve been encouraged to consider all options moving forward based on the situation in our communities.”
Durango 9-R officials are optimistic school will start next year with allowances made for social distancing and other health requirements, he said.