1st, 6th-grade classes switch to remote at STEM School Highlands Ranch amid COVID outbreak

Single cases treated differently in new school year


First and sixth grades at STEM School Highlands Ranch have been moved to remote learning for several days after a confirmed COVID outbreak.

The second grade was switching to remote learning  beginning Aug. 25 for at least one day while the school and local health department investigated whether there was an outbreak among those students as well, a spokeswoman said.

Nicole Bostel, the charter school’s director of communications, said first graders will return to in-person learning on Aug. 30. Sixth graders are on pace to return to class on Aug. 31, she said.

Bostel said the decision to quarantine an entire grade level is determined in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). A grade goes remote when at least five students are presumed or confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, she said.

“We are not handling quarantines the same way as we did last year, since we are back just about 100% in person,” Bostel said. “We notify grade levels when there is a positive case and let them know that their student may have been exposed. The parents are then asked to monitor for symptoms and to keep home (sic) if students are sick.”

According to what Bostel referred to as STEM’s “COVID Hub”, the school has updated notification practices this year in accordance with policy updates from the Douglas County School District DCSD.

According to the Hub, when the school is notified through a parent or family member that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, STEM sends a notification to specific family members.

Elementary families receive a grade-level notification indicating that a student in a specific grade has tested positive.

Secondary families receive a grade-level notification, as well as information on the class schedule for the last day that the COVID-positive student was at STEM.

According to the information hub, in the 2021-22 school year STEM will not be conducting contact tracing and will not be requiring quarantining, other than the COVID-positive student/staff member.

STEM officials ask that children exhibiting any symptoms of COVID, even mild ones, be kept home.

According to CDPHE guidelines, Colorado has moved from an individual case-based response strategy to a transmission mitigation strategy, where instead of quarantining students and staff after individual exposures, the risk of the whole school community, including the risk of interruptions to learning, is considered.

CDPHE is placing a priority on in-person learning in the new school year. To avoid disrupting in-person learning wherever possible, CDPHE is recommending reduced incidents of quarantine in schools and child care.

STEM follows policies set by the Douglas County School District, which can change as cases increase. The most up-to-date district policies can be found at here.

At this time, Bostel said STEM does not require neither students nor staff to be vaccinated. However, in accordance with district policies, there is a mask mandate for students and staff.

This story has been updated to reflect a quarantine at the second grade level as well.


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