Jan. 21 update: Middle schools and high schools remaining in Phase 3

Dear PSD families,

As you know, our preschool, elementary and middle school students went back to school on Tuesday, and our high school students return to their classes Monday, Jan. 25. Our goal remains to provide in-person learning for our students while following our established protocols. We want to open and remain open for the rest of this school year while minimizing disruptions to student learning. 

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We will leave our target dates open for our middle and high school return to Phase 4, 100% in-person learning to increase the likelihood that we can accomplish this challenging goal. That means we will remain in Phase 3 hybrid education beyond Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, the dates previously announced as the transitions from Phase 3 to 4 for middle and high schools, respectively. 

This adjustment is being made to give our leaders and COVID-19 Response Teams enough time to ensure we can keep our secondary schools open in the hybrid model; monitor the trends within PSD and Larimer County data (e.g. the county’s 14-day average of cases per 100,000 for secondary age students has trended upward since Jan. 5); and to evaluate the impact any new strains of the virus may have on our communities and schools. We will continue to work closely with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) leadership, and they are supportive of this approach. Although we recognize that our families and staff want firm dates when it comes to our second semester schedule, we must give ourselves enough time to implement our plans and measure their impact. 

Throughout the second half of the school year, we will continue to communicate our progress and will keep our PSD COVID-19 dashboards up to date. We will work closely with building staff and PSD COVID-19 Response Teams to monitor learning disruptions, staffing levels and our ability to maintain desired safety protocols. To support our efforts, we are pleased to share some of our recent developments that are designed to help us achieve our goal of opening and remaining open.

Testing: Jan. 27 is the target opening date for drive-through, PSD-specific testing sites at Fort Collins and Poudre high schools. The sites will open initially to only symptomatic PSD staff members, and our goal is to expand services to symptomatic students. PSD staff will administer BinaxNOW, a rapid antigen test, and LCDHE will communicate the results of the test to the individual. We believe identifying COVID-19-positive individuals sooner may reduce the spread of the virus. Our sites will not be open to the general public.

Vaccinations: PSD does not control the supply, availability, or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. LCDHE has been receiving limited doses and is working to distribute those, according to the state's tiered distribution plan. They are currently working through the 1A and top of 1B tiers, vaccinating frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and people ages 70 or older. LCDHE contacted PSD to say vaccinations were available for our 14 school nurses, who are considered frontline health care workers because they will be conducting BinaxNOW testing for symptomatic individuals. They received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. The vaccine is not yet available to all district personnel or educators until LCDHE is able to move onto those who are eligible in the second tier, "below the line" phase of 1B, which is anticipated to begin later this spring. The phasing timeline relies on the State of Colorado and counties receiving an adequate supply of the vaccine.

Health and safety: PSD’s COVID-19 and illness protocols are rooted in medical recommendations from the state and county health departments, among other sources. Department and school COVID-19 Response Teams are trained to respond when there are COVID-19 cases, and PSD has updated its contact tracing guidelines for the second semester. Our data dashboards are also updated so our communities can see the data we are using to guide decisions. Visit the PSD Health and Safety in 2020-21, PSD COVID-19 Protocols and COVID-19 Data/School Information web pages for more. 
Thank you for your continued patience and support. We believe our approach strikes a balance between the benefits of in-person learning and the caution we must exercise in these challenging times. 
Todd Lambert
Interim Superintendent