Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Thompson middle, high school students to return to full-time, in-person learning in late March

By: Dan Karpiel | The Surveyor | February 25, 2021 | Education

Thursday morning, the Thompson School District (TSD) announced that secondary students (middle and high school) will be allowed to return to full-time, in-person learning beginning Monday, March 22, following the spring break layoff.

The news comes on the heels of pleas from students and parents alike requesting a return to a normal education schedule. At the TSD Board of Education meeting Feb. 3, a large group of Berthoud residents addressed the school board during public comment, imploring the board to return to full-time, in-person learning as soon as possible citing numerous problems with the online, hybrid model the district has been employing since last March.

At the Feb. 3 meeting, Hallie Cook, a junior at Berthoud High School, shared with the board the details of a student-led petition at BHS that garnered 331 signatures that night, which asked the board and TSD administration to return to full-time, in-person learning immediately.

With COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations on a steady decline in the area, the district decided to heed the advice of the community and announce the return to full-time, in-person instruction for families who desire that approach; students enrolled in the Thompson Connect Online program, the TSD’s fully-remote learning option, can continue using that model if so desired.

In a letter sent Thursday morning to parents, the TSD stated, “Over the past several weeks, significant progress has been made locally in the fight against COVID-19. The overall testing positivity rate has declined and while officials at the Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment remain cautious, they are encouraged by many of the data points that they are monitoring within the community.”

The correspondence continued, “Now, thanks to several factors that are in place, we are excited to announce that middle school and high school students will return to a full five-day Monday through Friday in-person schedule beginning on Monday, March 22.”

The TSD worked in conjunction with the Poudre and Estes Park School Districts, both of which are also incorporated in Larimer County, as well as county health officials to bring about the change.

“Our goal has been to get students back to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. We’ve worked closely with our school districts throughout this pandemic and have confidence that their COVID-19 protocols prioritize the health and safety of the students and staff,” said Larimer County public health director, Tom Gonzales.

Metrics relayed to COVID-19 incidence rates, including the 14-day positive percentage of just 4.4%, a drop in school-related isolations and quarantines and the expanding availability of the virus vaccine, which now prioritizes those working in education, were cited as the reasons for the change.

The district chose the March 22 date as it is the beginning of the fourth quarter of the 2020-21 academic calendar and thus, “provides a natural start date for the district to transition students back into the classroom in a full five-day schedule,” according to the district.

The TSD communicated that steps are being taken to assure the safety protocols already in place will continue to be utilized, students and staff will be required to wear masks at all times, social distancing measures (a minimum of three-feet of space between students) will be enforced and frequent cleaning and sanitation practices will be employed.

The TSD announced that further details will be provided to students, staff and parents as the March 22 date approaches.

The Surveyor will continue to update this story as developments warrant.

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