Returning to school this semester was a long and well-planned on-ramp to maximize safety for students and staff. I was encouraged to see how quickly STEM students and staff adapted to the new rules of a quick swipe of the wrist with the touchless thermometers on stands, hand sanitizing, making sure their mask was covering their nose and mouth, and then off to class. Even the youngest students adapted as though this was always how schools start the day.
While we had a few positive cases, seven to be exact, not a single case originated at STEM and there was not a single transmission. Our strict procedures for cleaning, sanitizing, cohorting, social distancing and other protocols worked and we built confidence one day at time.
What STEM did not anticipate was the need for so many substitute teachers in such a short period of time. The need for trained and qualified subs, and the quick turnaround was what led our Board of Directors to accept my recommendation to move to Virtual Learning for the remainder of the Fall Semester during their November 20 Working Session. It was also during that session that the BOD shared their directive for the STEM Leadership team to begin identifying processes to put into place so that STEM could reopen its doors for in-person learning to start the new year.
Members of our staff have been hard at work over the past few weeks helping the Leadership Team to shore up our substitute teacher process so that we are ready to assist if teachers are in mandated quarantine. We could always use more, so if any members of our community are interested, they can acquire a sub license through Colorado Department of Education (CDE) through an application, fingerprinting and at least a GED.
It will take all of us, from our staff, our students and our families, to work together to reopen for in-person learning on Tuesday, January 5. Be on the lookout for more information next week as we share out more details.
What are the BOD and the Leadership Team using to inform this decision?
Governor Polis has access to the best epidemiologists in Colorado through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and receives daily briefings on conditions in the State. He advises CDE and public schools on the best recommendations and his recommendation throughout the Fall semester was to remain open to in-person learning. Currently, Governor Polis’ recommendation is to open schools in January to in-person learning where feasible.
Most charter schools in DCSD remained open when we moved to virtual learning between Thanksgiving and winter break. Denver Public Schools (DPS) and DCSD have already made the announcement that they plan to return to in-person learning in various scenarios in January as well.
What would some examples be for STEM to return to virtual-only education?
- The Governor recommends schools close to in-person learning.
- STEM has far too many subs to safely conduct state-required drills.
- STEM has too many positive cases to safely continue until the end of the recommended quarantine period.
From the start of the school year, we have provided our families the flexibility they need to meet their families’ needs. I would like to remind families that they can remain in the Virtual Learning Academic Plan as we return for the Spring Semester if that meets their needs.
The vaccine is on its way and we are excited to see that School Staff will be in the second phase of distribution. We hope to make up any lost learning with the accelerated pace of STEM’s curriculum. Brighter days are right around the corner.
P.J. Eucker PhD
Happy Hanukkah to our STEM families who celebrate this holiday.