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Second-grader Alijah Sanders, 7, left, participates in his online class in a classroom with his second grade learning pod on Monday during the first day back to school at Coyote Ridge Elementary School in Broomfield. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
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Elementary school children in Adams 12 Five Star Schools district are set to return to an in-person model, five days a week for students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.

The district’s Board of Education unanimously approved a learning model recommendation from Superintendent Chris Gdowski for the remainder of the fall semester.

The vote was taken at a special board meeting Sept. 10. The new model will go into effect Sept. 28.

The board voted in favor of the superintendent’s recommendation on July 29 to start the school year with all students learning remotely due to the high case rates of COVID-19 in Adams County, Board President Kathy Plomer said.

“In presenting the new plan to the board, the superintendent shared new data showing case rates have dropped significantly,” Plomer said in an email Wednesday. “Both the Tri County and Broomfield County Health Departments reviewed and sent a letter of support for the reopening plan.”

Board members felt with the new data; the plan’s outlined protective measures including enhanced cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing, and co-horting; and the belief in the advantages of in-person learning, that it was time to offer a choice of staying remote or going back in-person, Plomer said.

“Safety of the learning environment is still our No. 1 consideration and we will be monitoring that closely,” she said.

Middle and high school students, grade 6 through 12, will go into a hybrid model with two days spent in-person with a certified district teacher and three days remote.Two of those days will be asynchronous, which include access to pre-recorded lectures, and one day (Wednesdays) will be live teacher-led.

Preschool students will follow their current hybrid model, according to the district.

A full-time remote learning option taught by certified district teachers will remain available for families who prefer that model based on need or preference, according to the district. In-person Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses at FutureForward at Bollman and Washington Square will be available for families who select either learning model.

Regardless of the learning model, students may not have the same teachers they currently have.

Adams 12 students returned to a virtual classroom starting Aug. 27. Starting Aug. 31, some students returned to physical classrooms for a learning pod option.

More than 5,380 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, applied to be placed in a learning pod, Mark Poshak, culture and engagement official, said. That excluded high schools and charter schools. Adams 12, one of the largest districts in the state, has about 22,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The district placed 4,312 in pods, Poshak said.

Tara Peña, executive director of schools for Adams 12, said the district on Aug. 25 notified families if they were accepted to a learning pod or if they would be placed on a waiting list, which in late August had more than 1,000 names.

Elementary and middle schools were required to adhere to all Colorado Department of Public Health guidelines, Peña said, including keeping students spaced six feet apart, requiring them to wear masks except when eating and playing outside, and encouraging frequent hand washing. Pods for students in kindergarten through fifth grade have 12 students per pod, while students in sixth through eighth grades have 15 students in each pod.

“The district’s goal for this school year is to provide all students, staff and families a meaningful learning experience in a safe environment,” the district posted on its website. “In order to make a decision for a continued learning model for the remainder of the semester, the district will consider the following factors and data points.​”

Those factors include COVID-19 data; staffing levels; current quarantine guidelines and experiences; and community feedback. Quarantine guidelines and experiences include a review of in-person experiences, including the impact of possible student and/or staff cohort quarantine situations within the pods and in neighboring districts.

COVID data will be monitored at the county level, including: number of cases per 100,000 residents’ positivity rate; and growth in cases, which is a measure of if and how much case numbers are rising or falling in the community.

That data will come from the Tri-County Health Department, which includes Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, and Broomfield Public Health and Environment in making a decision.

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