Dear PSD staff and families,
We have made the difficult decision to start the new school year with PreK-12 students learning remotely. PSD leadership and Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) officials agreed today that it is unwise to open schools in our current environment. Schools will be closed to in-person education through at least the end of first quarter, Friday, Oct. 16. We will re-evaluate public health conditions between now and then and determine whether we can responsibly open schools or if we will need to continue remote education.
Aug. 24 is still the planned first day of school. It saddens us that we will not be able to be with our students in-person again, as we have hoped to be, but are excited for the strong connections that teachers, students, staff and families will forge this school year.
There are challenges with remote education for all grade levels and things won’t look the same as when teachers, students and staff are able to be together in school. We are working now to finalize the many critical components of and questions about this new opening plan and will share an update this Friday, Aug. 7 with more detailed information about what you can expect.
We have remained ready to adjust plans to address the needs and safety of everyone in our PSD community. We have tracked current Larimer County COVID-19 data and overall community risk and consulted frequently with LCDHE officials. Considering the safety of all, we do not want PSD’s actions to result in a potential spike in cases in our community. We have watched closely as school districts across the country have recently opened schools and experienced just that.
“These are not easy decisions and there is no perfect answer,” said Tom Gonzales, Larimer County public health director. “One of the biggest concerns we have in Larimer County and for Colorado is the delay in test results. We are seeing a substantial delay in COVID-19 test results from all clinical labs, including the state lab. For contact tracing to be effective, we must obtain timely test results within 2-3 days. The way we prevent outbreaks in our schools is to test, trace and isolate. With cases continuing to rise, counties across the state will struggle to conduct timely contact tracing with this delay in results.
This is a state-wide problem that has caused us to reassess our school reopening plans. We continue to meet regularly with our schools in order to provide guidance and consultation. It is our recommendation at this time for our schools to consider delaying starts until we have faster turnaround times on our test results. Timely test results assist us in effectively conducting contact tracing in our schools to protect our students and educators from the virus. We are looking at a variety of options, including other clinical laboratory capacity in our community, to get our test results back faster. We will continue to work through this process with our schools.”
Again, you can expect to receive more information this Friday, as we strive to keep our families updated during these rapidly changing times.
Thank you for your continued patience and flexibility.
Sandra Smyser, Ph.D.