Dear PSD families,
PSD is a learning organization, and we believe students and staff are at their best when schools are open to in-person learning. Our schools play an essential role in the community, and our students count on them for opportunities to learn, grow and build important relationships. Since COVID-19 began affecting our community in March, we have closely monitored both in-district and community data, and we have learned that the virus has lower case prevalence and transmission rates among school-aged children. For those reasons, our students will return to some form of in-person learning after winter break. Please see the January schedule listed below for more details.
We believe the benefits of in-person learning are as follows:
- Students and staff thrive on the relationships they build together. Positive relationships instill confidence in our students and those relationships are best cultivated and sustained through in-person interactions. These relationships also provide cues and evidence of progress for teachers that are best evaluated in person.
- Many students require additional help and guidance beyond traditional whole-group instruction. This type of support is best delivered when students are in the classroom.
- Virtual instruction makes the hands-on learning we value particularly difficult for primary-age students. Additionally, our youngest students lack independence to maximize their virtual learning opportunities.
- In-person learning allows our students to develop and practice their social skills and peer interactions. When students are isolated, it is more challenging for schools to identify individual student needs.
- Although our talented staff have been supporting students’ mental health throughout the pandemic, they are better able to meet their needs in school.
- In-person learning each day provides our families with predictability and consistency in their daily schedules.
January 2021 plan
Remote learning will take place after winter break for a couple reasons: First, we want to monitor community health conditions to see if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases after the holidays. The staggered return also helps us to gauge the impact of a return to schools without bringing all students back full-time. Additionally, staff need time to prepare buildings and materials for in-person learning.
Our plan is to maintain in-person learning for the rest of the school year, strategically closing schools or classrooms to control the spread of COVID-19 rather than implementing widespread shifts to remote education. It is also incumbent upon us to assess the community-wide spread’s effect on our ability to deliver education, maintain operations safely and respond to cases.
Assistant superintendents Dr. Todd Lambert and Scott Nielsen share PSD’s philosophy about the importance of in-person learning in this PSD TV video:
Using data to drive decision-making
How we educate students during this pandemic affects the health of those inside and outside of PSD. Our students, staff members and their families live in the greater community, and their health and safety cannot be separated from the key decisions we make. We want our stakeholders to be well informed of the data we are evaluating and should be confident that we are making this decision with the best information available at this time.
Although Larimer County COVID-19 data are important, we have been digging deeper into PSD-specific data and enhanced the tools that inform our decisions. PSD’s COVID-19 data dashboard is available online and visualizes cases by date, location, school level and grade level; as well as PSD’s 14-day cumulative case count to track trends by school level; the 14-day case percentage and 14-day cases per 100,000; and a breakdown of student and staff member case totals.
When PSD was in Phase 3 (Oct. 5-Nov. 19), cases in the primary level (PreK-5) age band were flattest when compared to other age bands. The highest percentage of cases were in high schools, and PSD noted a drop in high school-age cases coincided with the shift to remote education in November. Additionally, national and global data show fewer cases of COVID-19 have been reported in children (0-17 years) compared with adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple reputable sources have recently reported that transmission from and among children – particularly those 14 and younger – is relatively low.
- Temporary school closures: This is a new approach PSD will implement. From Jan. 11 and until otherwise specified, PSD leadership and Health Services staff will discuss with principals whether a temporary school closure is necessary when a school’s case percentage goes above 1%, as displayed on PSD’s data dashboard. Families should be prepared that their student’s school may be affected by this new change and that they may receive little notice before a temporary closure occurs.
- Responding to COVID-19 cases: PSD COVID-19 Response Teams will continue working with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment to conduct contact tracing investigations. LCDHE will continue issuing quarantine orders to identified close contacts. We anticipate some changes to case investigations by grade level and will communicate more as soon as possible. PSD COVID-19 Protocols for COVID-19 >>
Other key information
- Meals: The district will provide free meals to PSD students (Pre-K-12) through the end of the 2020-21 school year. PSD Meals During 2020-21 web page >>
- All current PSD meal programs will continue at schools/kitchens as they are now in Phase 1-3.
- Elementary school kitchens will transition to only serving students who are in-person when schools move to Phase 4.
- Secondary sites serving meals now to any PSD students will still do so in Phases 2-3.
- Mobile meal sites will continue in January as they are now.
Transportation Services is adapting ridership plans to align with the new phases by grade level after winter break. PSD will bus students for whom transportation is legally required, as well as many of whom applied and were approved for busing this school year. There is no busing for school of choice students. Transportation web page >>
- The weeks of Jan. 5 and 11 for PreK-5 students
- The weeks of Jan. 5 and 11 for 6-8 students
- The weeks of Jan. 5, 11 and 18 for 9-12 students
Those who were bused in Phase 1 and Phase 3 are not guaranteed transportation as phases change by grade level after winter break. Busing is guaranteed for students for whom transportation is legally required (i.e. those with Individualized Transportation Plans (ITP) and some foster students). As additional available seats are identified, Transportation Services will notify PreK-5 families if their students receive bussing around Jan. 8. We anticipate that Transportation will continue to add riders through February.
- Athletics: PSD follows Colorado High School Activities Association and local and state public health guidance for athletics. CHSAA Season B athletics practices are anticipated to start Jan. 25; this is subject to change. Activities, Athletics and Events Status web page >>
- Remote Learning Support Centers will remain open to support identified students who need a safe space with internet and meals so they can access their remote educations. Students do not receive direct instruction; they are supervised by an adult while participating in learning online with their teacher(s).
- Health and safety protocols will look like those in place during Phase 3 hybrid learning. Health and Safety in 2020-21 >>
Remember, every person has a responsibility to keep others in our communities as safe as possible and stop the spread of COVID-19. You can help PSD Keep Schools Open by wearing a face covering, watching your distance and washing your hands.
Thank you for your continued support of PSD, as we work through this challenging school year together.
Poudre School District