Preparing for school: DCSD releases three plans for fall instruction

Delta County School District will distribute a survey to families as they gauge families thoughts about instruction this fall.

The Delta County School District has announced three possible plans for resuming school this fall with a focus on offering traditional in-person learning for students. However, the district understands in-person learning does not work for every student and every family, so they are creating plans to give families options.

During the June board of education meeting, Caryn Gibson, DCSD superintendent, acknowledged there are unanswered questions about what school will look like in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the district and school board are working to develop a plan to ensure students will continue their education in the safest environment possible.

“Just in our world and our nation, there’s a lot of issues going on,” Gibson said. “It reminds me here of our motto ‘Caring, Challenging, Learning … Every Student, Every Day,’ but we can keep valuing everyone and keep things moving forward.”

The district met with the Delta County Health Department and county on June 17 to discuss safety precautions and needed items, so the district can order them now to ensure they arrive in time for the fall semester.

“The district has begun planning for how to provide the safest and best possible learning environments, or tracks, for the 2020-21 school year,” Gibson said.

The district has prepared three possible plans, since it remains unclear what school will look like in the fall as the situation surrounding COVID-19 remains fluid.

The three possibilities include:

Traditional learning

Hybrid learning (blend of in-person and online learning)

Distance, online learning

As the district continues to collaborate with local public health officials and the county, Gibson said staffers are conducting extensive planning as they create a working group to advise and accommodate learning for the different approaches this school year.

“We do understand the in-person option may not be a good fit for all this fall, therefore, we are working on providing an online option for families that do not want their students to return to school for health reasons,” she said.

To address the shift to distance learning that may occur due to COVID-19, the district is looking to hire an online learning coordinator. This person will lead and guide the online track.

“The Colorado Department of Education is allowing school districts to have online distance learning without having a separate school for next year because there will be some people who aren’t going to be ready to come back,” Gibson said. “It’s very important that we try to provide educational options for all.”

Throughout this planning phase, Gibson said, “The district continues to face many challenges as they look to resume school and student participation in the fall, but they face them with a positive attitude and perseverance.”

DCSD families need to keep an eye on their mail as the district prepares to send out a survey in the second week of July. The survey will be distributed through the district’s automated robo-call system via email and text messaging.

“When we do that survey, I think that survey needs to be really thought of,” said board member Dan Burke. “We don’t want it to be confusing.”

Burke also expressed concern about families changing their minds. Aurora Public Schools is requiring families to make a commitment to a style of learning for the year, to avoid families switching between styles and the district not having allocated enough faculty and resources to that learning platform.

The district wants to gauge families' desires for each of the three possible learning environments as personnel decide the best options for the fall. Once the district has sifted through the feedback and learning approaches, they will communicate plans with families.

“We will wait to communicate any definitive plans until we have worked through the multiple approaches and have clear guidance from our health agency partners,” Gibson said.

DCSD is currently working with DCHD as they begin using facilities this summer, which will guide their approaches for fall schooling and sports programs.

“With our current variance given to Delta County by CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), we have opened up our athletic facilities with restricted numbers and safety precautions,” she said.

Understanding the importance of mental and physical health for students, DCSD continues to strive toward traditional instruction for students in the fall while also offering activities and athletics, which further enhance the academic experience.

Gibson said, “We know by succeeding, we positively impact the social, emotional, physical and mental well-being of the nearly 4,800 students in Delta County School District.”

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

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