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The Boulder Valley School District is tentatively planning to bring elementary students back full time for in-person learning when school starts in August, but only if social distancing restrictions loosen and local health departments give the OK.

The Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday unanimously approved the district’s five-phase school reintroduction plan. Superintendent Rob Anderson also shared his optimism that elementary students, at least, won’t need to start under a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote learning.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that our community wants our kids to go back 100% of the time, but we have to be safe,” he said. “Our hope, obviously, is to get as many kids in person as often as we can.”

He said the plan is to make an official call by the week of July 20, adding the district developed the five scenarios in its reintroduction plan to allow flexibility to respond to changing public health data, guidelines and potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

If current restrictions remain in place, including a class size limit of 10 and social distancing of six feet, the district would instead use a hybrid plan for all grades — the plan that initially seemed most likely based on direction from area health departments.

Under that plan, elementary and middle students students would be split into two groups that would rotate between in-class and at-home learning. Students in each group would attend school two days a week and learn from home the other two days. On the fifth day, currently proposed for Wednesday, students are off while schools are deep cleaned and teachers plan.

During at-home learning, students would complete online assignments, review pre-recorded content or livestream classroom instruction.

At the high school level, the proposal is for two days of in-person learning labs for core content, while the other days would be spent learning from home.

Because social distancing requirements would greatly limit the number of students on school buses, transportation only would be provided for students who receive busing as part of their special education services and for eligible preschool students.

Masks would either be encouraged or required for students during arrival, dismissal and when physical distancing is not possible, depending on public health orders. Along with guidance on masks, district officials said, they’re also waiting on guidance on the level of health screening required before students and staff members enter the building.

Lunch would be served in classrooms. Movement around the school building would be limited, though teachers would be encouraged to use outdoor spaces often during instruction and for breaks.

Boulder Valley has asked for feedback on its hybrid plan through Let’s Talk BVSD, the district’s new online engagement platform.

A main concern based on comments shared on that platform is a hybrid model isn’t sustainable for working parents. The district’s plan includes before- and after-school care for elementary students, but only on the days when they’re in school buildings. District officials noted they’re working with outside providers on options for families.

Along with the challenge of finding and affording childcare for elementary age children, parents said on the feedback platform, putting children in child care on off days increases their potential exposure to the coronavirus.

“This plan is such a nightmare for working parents — and will accelerate equity issues so badly — that I can’t even believe this is being considered,” one person wrote on the platform.

Many of those commenting said they want students to return to school for five days a week of in-person learning, though others wanted to know they could continue to have their children learn remotely full time — an option that is included in the district’s plans.

“It is worse to keep kids home part of the time, expecting learning to happen full-time,” one person wrote on the platform. “The toll of physically isolating our kids is devastating, and remote learning is so unnatural that it does not work for most kids.”

A few other Denver area districts have announced plans for five days of in-person learning in the fall. Jeffco Schools and Cherry Creek Schools are planning in-person learning full-time for elementary students, with Jeffco promising to announce middle and high school plans next month. Westminster plans to bring all students back full time.

Students attending full time in-person is Boulder Valley’s phase four plan.

School would largely return to normal, other than increased health precautions and the likelihood of smaller group sizes during lunch. Elementary students would transition between core classes and enrichment classes. High school teachers would move from team instruction to the more typical single teacher per class.

“I’m super optimistic about that one,” Boulder Valley Area Superintendent Margaret Crespo said about starting school in phase four.

Families who aren’t comfortable sending children to in-person schools have two options in the fall. They can either continue with remote learning through their child’s current school or enroll in Boulder Universal, the district’s K-12 online school.

In phase five, those who don’t want their children to return to in-person school will only have the option of Boulder Universal. For the coming school year, those enrolled in Boulder Universal won’t lose their spots at their regular district schools. Charter schools will make their own enrollment decisions.

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