2020-21 school year planning update - a message from the superintendent

    Note - Next community update is June 24: In this update (emailed to PSD staff and families on June 10), we noted we would share additional information and a link to new 2020-21 School Year and COVID-19 Response web pages on June 19. However, staff need additional time to ensure planning efforts and communications are as comprehensive as possible, so we will send the next community update June 24. Thank you in advance for your understanding, and we apologize for any inconvenience as we respond to this ever-changing health crisis. 


    June 10, 2020 

    Dear PSD staff and families, 

    We know many of you are awaiting more information regarding what education in PSD may look like during the 2020-21 school year. During the June 9 Board of Education meeting, PSD staff presented their planning efforts to date, while explaining the possible scenarios students and their families may experience when the district opens back up for learning in August.

    Below is a summary of the current plan, as of June 10, 2020. We will validate this work multiple times this summer to ensure plans remain aligned with current local and state public health and education guidance and orders. 

    Translations and FAQ

    The district’s 2020-21 school year plans are built upon three guiding principles: that our students receive a high-quality education, whether they are learning in-person or remotely; that education is delivered in a manner prioritizing staff and student health; and that PSD is nimble enough to adapt as public health conditions fluctuate. We believe a phased approach allows for structured flexibility, anticipating PSD may move among phases during the school year. This approach aligns with K-12 planning guidance from the Colorado Department of Education, Colorado governor’s office, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Larimer County Department of Health and Environment leaders have also reviewed and support our planning. We also want to thank the significant number of family and staff members who responded to our spring surveys. Your input helped guide our planning.

    We acknowledge there are imperfections with every phase, due to many factors outside our control. As we’ve said: Nothing compares to a student’s experience of learning in school with their teachers and peers. Amid a new reality, we’re committed to maintaining PSD’s high standards in any phase of education. 

    Based on our current assessment of the situation, staff believe we may open in Phase 3 but are prepared to open in any of the other phases as required or permitted by health officials and conditions. Phases 1 and 2 are not our first choice and we would enter them under guidance of public health officials. We would prefer to open in Phase 4 but know this is also dependent on public health guidance. 

     Phase 1 - Remote-only

    Student learning will take place in a 100 percent remote environment. A team of PSD staff and educators are evaluating the most-recent period of remote education to identify areas of improvement and establish best practices for remote teaching and learning in the future. They are studying what worked well in PSD and other school districts, as well as results from a PSD staff survey.

    Phase 2 - Mostly remote; in-person for small groups only 

    Most students will engage in a 100 percent remote-learning environment four days per week. Smaller, select groups of students will meet for in-person learning, while following social distancing protocols (wearing cloth masks, maintaining at least 6 feet of separation, washing hands frequently, etc.). We anticipate this phase will be necessary if the county restricts the total number of people in a group/space to 10 people.   

    Phase 3: Hybrid remote-only and in-person 

    Students will be educated five days a week in a combination of in-person and remote education. Because we must limit the number of students and staff in our buildings due to social distancing requirements, we will split students into two groups: A and B. Students in each group will attend school in-person two days a week and engage in in-home learning three days a week. Each Friday, 100 percent of students will engage in in-home learning while teachers plan for the following week’s lessons. 








    Group A

    Group B

    Group A

    Group B

    Remote education


    Teacher/ staff professional learning/planning day


    % of students in remote education







    Phase 4 - Return to mostly normal instruction with some health protocols  

    All students will be in school at the same time, though state officials may implement guidelines requiring a limit of 20-25 students in a classroom. Expect health protocols to be in place, such as maintaining 6 feet of distance and wearing cloth face masks. Although students and staff will be back in PSD buildings, in-person education in Phase 4 will look different than pre-COVID-19 times. These conditions and associated protocols are dictated by local and state public health agencies and the governor.

    Online learning only by parent choice 

    We expect that there will be families who are not ready or able to go back to school, even if health conditions allow for in-person education in some form. In a 100 percent remote education environment, students can take classes online and be connected to their original school communities. The bonds our students have with their teachers, classmates, and staff are deeply important – especially during these difficult times. This option will be available to students in preschool through 12th grade. A district team is working together to leverage their collective experience and what we've learned to-date about educating kids virtually to develop this option.

    We will not make a final, district-wide decision about which phase we will open in until at least early August because we do not know how public health conditions and guidance may change in a couple months. Please know a decision around this time will be a starting point; public health conditions and orders will likely be in constant motion and we are prepared to be nimble in our response. 

    We know many of you likely have a long list of follow-up questions. We don’t have all the answers yet but have forward-thinking groups of educators and staff digging down into the details to establish plans around what, specifically, remote, in-person, and hybrid education will look next year; how we strengthen and refine our shared culture of hygiene and safety; transportation; meals; and more. We are still expecting to receive additional 2020-21 K-12 guidance and orders from state and local public officials and will further develop plans as more information becomes available.

    On June 19, PSD will launch a new web page with more information about what families can expect in each of the four phases of 2020-21 PSD education and COVID-19 response. This will be PSD’s main hub of information about the phases of education, PSD’s plans for continuity of learning, health and safety, resources for students and families, and more. This site will be updated over the summer and throughout the 2020-21 school year, as information becomes available. 

    The spring of 2020 was difficult for everyone, particularly because we were abruptly thrust into a new way of living and learning.  Although things in PSD will continue to look different than they have in the past, we have the benefit of more planning time and experience than before.
    Thank you for your continued partnership and support of PSD. 



    Sandra Smyser, Ph.D.