Cherry Creek switches back to 'blended' plan for in-person, online class

Full in-person plan still on for pre-kindergarten through 5th grade


Citing a web of recommendations from Colorado's public health and education officials — and as the rate of COVID-19 cases has ramped up for several weeks in Arapahoe County — the Cherry Creek School District announced a shift back to a fall plan that places older students in school and at home on different days of the week.

The district also announced it would make a final decision on whether to start the school year with any in-person learning by Aug. 6.

Students who enrolled in online class will start remotely regardless. School will start as planned on Aug. 17, according to the district's website.

District officials are pushing to open in-person class in a way that guards students' health, but “we'll be remote until the data tells us it's safe,” said Superintendent Scott Siegfried in a July 29 live video presentation to the community.

The district in June considered a “blended” option, where students would split time between in-person school and online class, but it dropped that option at the end of June, unveiling a plan for in-person classes five days a week for all students and online learning for families who want to opt out for any reason.

Now, the district switched back to the blended plan for grades six through 12 that puts half of students in school Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the other half attending Thursday and Friday. Families can still choose to put their students in the online program.

“The data show that as kids get older, they spread the virus at a greater rate,” Superintendent Scott Siegfried said in a live video presentation to the community July 29.

His presentation showed state guidance that says elementary students pose a lower risk for spreading coronavirus than older students.

Middle- and high-schoolers will be assigned to the "A day" or "B day" cohort, or group, based on their last name. The district will make efforts to place siblings in the same cohort, Siegfried said.

For those who attend school in person, the three days per week of online class will be “asynchronous,” meaning the learning will take place without real-time interaction and students will progress at their own pace, according to the district's plan.

That framework could shift to periods of full online learning based on closure orders from the state or public health officials state — for weeks or months, if necessary. But class will not transition to remote learning “for a dismissal less than a week,” and teachers will not have to serve both in-person and remote classes, Siegfried's presentation says.

For example, if student athletes must quarantine for 14 days due to an infection on their team but their teachers are not affected, the students can continue to complete work posted on Schoology — the platform for online learning — but they will not receive remote instruction, according to the presentation.

Opening day

In his live presentation, Siegfried unveiled a point system for evaluating data on COVID-19 in Arapahoe County to guide the district's decisions. If trends in the coronavirus' spread are reassuring enough for seven to 14 days, the district will hold classes in person.

That's a metric that will influence whether in-person class can begin at the start of the school year, Siegfried said.

But if trends are too concerning, the district will start the year remotely. The district considers data including Arapahoe County's percentage of COVID-19 tests that show as positive, the county's number of hospitalizations and its overall number of added cases over time.

Based on data at the time of the July 29 presentation, Siegfried said if the decision were made then, the district would start the year with in-person class.

That type of analysis of the county's data may influence the district's potential decisions to switch to fully online class later in the school year, Siegfried added.

If in-person class does begin at the top of the year, Aug. 17-21 will be a “phase-in week” in which all students can come to school to practice new routines, and staff and students can begin to develop relationships, prior to the full start.

Cherry Creek's hesitation in starting in-person class comes as other Denver metro-area districts push back their opening dates for in-person instruction. Denver Public Schools announced it will extend fully remote instruction from the start of school on Aug. 24 through Oct. 16, and students in Aurora Public Schools will learn remotely through the first quarter, which ends Oct. 8.

Younger students, online option

The youngest students — those in pre-kindergarten up to fifth grade — will attend school five days per week when the district gives the green light for in-person class, according to the district's plan.

K-5 students will be cohorted, meaning they'll be placed in a class and remain in that group for the full day, according to the district's plan.

The district also made online class an option for all K-12 students, with a new online program is available for grades K-5. Middle- and high-school students can take online courses through Cherry Creek Elevation, the district's online school. In both programs, all instruction will be delivered by a certified Cherry Creek School District teacher, according to the district's plan.


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