Dear PSD families,
Welcome back. I hope that you and your family had a restful and safe winter break. Regardless of the circumstances we faced during the first five months of the school year, it is always good to connect with family and friends over the holidays and still celebrate our traditions in some way.
The purpose of this message is to provide you with updated information as we begin our second half of the school year. I will start with the most important details, first. We adjusted our January/February schedule for our secondary students. While PSD preschool and elementary students remain on-schedule to resume in-person learning Tuesday, Jan. 19, our secondary schedules are changed to allow students to begin their in-person learning sooner than previously announced and, in some cases, for more days per week. Additionally, we have set future dates for our secondary students to begin in-person learning, five days per week.
*Fort Collins, Fossil Ridge, Poudre and Rocky Mountain High Schools
After evaluating Larimer County COVID-19 data and PSD-specific data gathered throughout the fall while students were in school, we decided to move forward with in-person learning for all PSD students. PSD data and other reputable sources suggest there is minimal spread of COVID-19 in schools, particularly for students ages 5 to 14. Students grow most when they are with their teachers and classmates, and they deserve nothing less than the best chance at success, academically and social-emotionally.
In-person learning presents safety challenges that differ by school level. In elementary school, students are generally grouped by their homerooms. When it is necessary to go to remote learning due to a COVID-19 case, the shift can be limited to a homeroom or a smaller group of students. Secondary students have multiple classes in a day and are around more people throughout the day. As a result, you will see a shift to remote learning for larger groups of middle and high school students who may be close contacts with a COVID-19 case.
Regardless of the grade level, student and staff safety remain a high priority. You will see this commitment in action as we make our decisions for shifting students to remote learning in response to COVID-19 cases. We will monitor our data and quickly address higher risk situations; actions may include temporary closure of individual schools when percent positivity rates are 1% or higher. Although there will be shifts to remote education, we are opening our schools for in-person learning with the intent of keeping them open for the remainder of the year. We are pointing forward in 2021.
COVID-19 testing: With the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE), PSD will offer testing to symptomatic staff and students by about Jan. 19, to coincide with students’ return to school. We will share more information as it is available.
Vaccinations: The state, not PSD, controls the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and has a tiered plan based upon risk level. The 1A-tier, highest-risk healthcare workers are receiving vaccinations now, and people in the 1B tier will follow. In a Jan. 5 announcement, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that vaccinations will be allocated to those in the top 1B tier (moderate-risk healthcare workers, people 70 years and older) from about mid-January to late February. After these groups, CDPHE estimates providers will be ready to vaccinate bottom 1B tier, frontline essential workers, including teachers and childcare workers, likely beginning around the end of February. PSD will provide LCDHE with an employee prioritization list, based upon risk level, so we are ready to go as soon as vaccinations are made available to us.
Health and Safety: Upon their return, students and staff will be expected to continue following our health protocols. We will maximize distancing and practice the 3 Ws, but 6 feet of social distance will not always be possible due to physical space limitations with more students attending more of the time. PSD will align with CDPHE’s updated Return to Learn guidance for when staff and students may return to work and school after experiencing illness symptoms (not a COVID-19 case). These replace the previous iteration of illness protocols.
COVID-19 protocols: Contact tracing will look different at the preschool/elementary and secondary levels. Read more on the PSD COVID-19 Protocols web page. Track the district’s data on PSD’s COVID-19 data dashboards.
Meals and transportation: Meals will be free to all PSD students through the rest of the school year. Distribution information plans will be posted on the Meals During 2020-21 web page. The Transportation Department is working quickly to re-design routes for all grade levels and will notify families as soon as possible about whether their students will be bussed. More information >>
It is incumbent upon each of us to wear a mask, wash our hands and watch our distance. We are counting on students, staff, families and community members to build and maintain our shared culture of safety. Let’s open our schools and keep them open.
Thank you, and I hope you all have a great start to the second semester.
Todd Lambert, Ph.D.