Adams 12 middle and high school students will stay home for the rest of the current semester, relying on remote learning to keep up with their classes.
The Adams 12 Board of Education voiced their frustration Oct. 21 with the district’s hybrid model of education that began the year — with students spending part of the week in smaller classes and part of it online — but said ultimately their hands were tied because of concerns the current COVID-19 spike, especially in Adams County.
“At this level of transmission, we are in a danger zone and this is concerning,” Board Chair Kathy Plomer said. “If we move to Stay at Home Level, then things get shut down.”
Colorado’s Stay at Home Level, which begins when a county has a two-week cumulative incident rate higher than 350, would require all classes to be remote. But Plomer noted it has other impacts that affect the rest of the community. The Stay at Home Level would ban personal gatherings, require church services be remote or virtual, close in-restaurant dining, most businesses, offices, bars and gymnasiums and all but curbside shopping pick-ups and deliveries.
As of Oct. 21, Adams County had a cumulative rate of 423 cases.
“If we want to get back to in-person learning, we have to make some pretty big behavior changes,” she said. “We have professional football leagues canceling games. Places are shutting down across the world, so it’s not us making a big deal about it. It’s public health in general.”
The board voted unanimously to move students in grades six through 12 to remote learning for the duration of the current semester.
Superintendent Chris Gdowski unveiled the plan on Oct. 19. It offers different learning plans for younger and older students, letting pre-school, kindergarten and elementary schools continue in-person learning for their students while requiring those in grades six and higher to learn from home.
“One of the things I know, wearing my parent hat, and one of the things I see communicated to me in my superintendent role, is the need for consistency and predictability among our students, parents and staff,” GDowski said. “Riding the roller coaster has become quite tiresome for all of those groups. Given what we have predicted about the spread of the virus following Thanksgiving we believe the most prudent path forward is to stay the course through remote learning through the conclusion of the semester.”
Middle and high school students, called secondary students in district memos, relied on asynchronous learning for classes on Oct. 22 and 23. That involves students logging on for pre-recorded and assignments according to their own schedules. Live synchronous classes with their teachers were scheduled to begin on Oct. 26 and those students would continue in remote learning through Dec. 17.
The Board of Education is currently scheduled to discuss a plan for the next semester at their Nov. 18 meeting. The next semester is scheduled to begin Jan. 4.
Quarantine roller coaster
Gdowski said the school district began using the hybrid model on Oct. 8. A portion of students opted for full-time remote learning, the rest went to school a few days a week and used virtual tools the other days. Most of the classes have been live, with teachers working with students online or in person, with saved content like documents and pre-recorded lectures, that some students will be able to access.
The hybrid model made classes difficult for the teachers, he said.
“You have your Monday-Tuesday cohort in front of you for in-person learning and your Thursday-Friday group in asynchronous classes and maybe a remote class you are doing fully or in a hybrid space,” Gdowski said. “You might have students that selected remote learning for Spanish 4 and the only way to do that is to live stream it and do something remote.”
Despite those precautions, there have been numerous outbreaks, requiring those students as well as students and teachers they had contact with to move into a two-week quarantine and full-time remote learning. As of Oct. 18, the district had 59 cases of COVID-19 which led to 891 students and 142 staff in quarantine. The number of cases had increased to 83 by Oct. 21, including a case at Legacy High School that sent 65 students into quarantine.
“It’s a daily occurrence where we have more and more quarantines every day,” Gdowski said. “Now you have a fourth complication with the Hybrid model, some number of students now in quarantine status. The feedback we’ve received is that they are not able to provide the quality instruction and meet the needs of students in those four different places.”
High school activities and athletics would continue, per state and county health orders while middle and elementary school clubs would be virtual.
“The why behind doing that comes down to this quarantine impact,” he said.
Gdowski noted that middle and high school students move between classrooms throughout the day. An infected student would contact a group of students at one class in the morning, then several different groups as the day progresses, potentially infecting many more.
Preschool and elementary students, however, stay in the same classroom with the same students and teachers throughout the day, limiting the number of infections students with COVID-19 could spread.
“A student that becomes positive because of participating in football or basketball does not disrupt the learning process the teacher has planned the way it would under in-person learning,” he said. “These students are already in remote learning and are healthy to continue learning in a remote fashion. At the elementary level, we are trying to minimize the number of contacts a cohort has. If you’ve worked hard all day to keep 20 kids in Ms. Susies’s third-grade class safe, then you have Spanish club on Monday and a Robotics club Tuesday and a Music club Wednesday, it crosses into so many areas.”
The board heard comments from many parents and students asking to keep the students in schools.
But Board of Education members said the current status and the apparent spread of the disease override what they want to do.
“The bottom line here is, it’s not up to the kids,” Board Member Brian Batz said. “It’s not up to the schools. It’s up to all the adults to change our practices so we can go back to semi-normalcy.”