The Bayfield School District had its first day of remote learning this week after the district closed because of new positive COVID-19 cases.
“For our students, for our staff and all of us, it breaks our heart,” said Superintendent Kevin Aten, during a school board meeting Tuesday. “Effective immediately, and hopefully temporarily, the Bayfield School District will be closed to in-person learning,”
The school district learned about 10 positive COVID-19 cases and exposures to those cases at the Bayfield middle and high schools Tuesday evening, which necessitated closures for both schools. The virus appeared to be spreading inside the schools among students and staff members, Aten said. Families should anticipate remote learning through Thanksgiving.
“We’re going to work through this, and I’m going to hope that it’s temporary until we get this under control,” Aten said.
The district also closed the primary and intermediate schools. Those schools had presumed positive cases because of exposure to others with COVID-19, he said.
Although school board members and community members asked if the younger students could continue with in-person learning for one day, Aten said the risk of disease transmission was too high.
Athletic and other extracurricular activities were canceled as of Tuesday until further notice.
While some community members expressed support for the closure during the meeting, others were concerned about the sudden closure’s impact on families, teachers and students.
Board President Mike Foutz expressed concern about the negative impacts on students’ mental health, struggles with accessing remote lessons and lost academic opportunities.
“There’s not a next time, next year or another opportunity for a lot of these kids,” Foutz said, particularly the older students. “We can try to provide learning and support from a remote environment, but it doesn’t work. ... This is bad for the kids.”
Some community members asked about whether the district would return to a hybrid learning model, which combines remote and in-person learning.
Foutz said the district learned about the cases late Tuesday and had not decided on a plan to return to school as of Tuesday night. The district will meet to discuss its reopening plan Nov. 19, Aten said.
Other school districts, including Durango School District 9-R, have also recently canceled in-person learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Nov. 6, Bayfield closed the high school to in-person learning after a staff member reported positive COVID-19 test results.
The closure came soon after the district dropped its cohort learning model, which separated students into small groups, in late October. Many school districts, including those in Durango and Ignacio, turned to the model to limit possible spread of the coronavirus.
School officials were not rethinking the decision to drop the cohort model in response to the high school’s closure, Aten said Nov. 6.
“Trust me, this is not a decision ... that I wanted to make,” Aten said Tuesday. “But (cases) have cascaded to a point – we just have too much outbreak. It’s disappointing on many levels.”