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Thompson School District announces return of post-break, in-person learning

By: Dan Karpiel | The Surveyor | December 24, 2020 | Education

Wednesday night at the regular meeting of the Thompson School District (TSD) Board of Education, the board announced the district’s plans for a return to in-person learning in a staggered fashion following Christmas break. The option for a fully-model educational model will remain in effect for students who opt for that route.

The TSD announced that, on Tuesday, Jan. 5, all pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students who opt for the in-person learning model will be able to return to school. On the same day, all students at Ferguson High School as well as students taking courses at the Thompson Careers Campus may return.

Any students in the SOARS program and secondary (sixth- through 12th-grade) students in the Intensive Learning Centers, Intensive Language Learning Center, Sierra School, Community Connections, HOPE program, English Language Development Newcomer programs are also eligible to return.

Middle and high school students who are not part of the aforementioned programs will be able to return to in-person learning, using the hybrid schedule employed in the early portion of the fall semester, later in January. Middle schoolers will be able to return Tuesday, Jan. 19, and high school students six days later Monday, Jan. 25. The remote learning model currently in use will be used from Jan. 5 to the Jan. 19 and 25 dates listed above for middle and high school students, respectively.

Speaking on the decision to allow for the optional return to in-person learning as outlined above, Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales said, “Locally, we have seen that early learning and K-5 students have minimal in-classroom transmission and it is encouraged that those students return to in-person learning when the schools are ready and able to do so. We are supportive of a phased return to in-person learning for secondary students. As always, we support our districts and schools and the decisions they make to keep students and teachers safe and we continue to work closely with them to do so.”

While TSD leadership stated their confidence in the plans outlined and announced Wednesday night, they cautioned that changes are possible should the public health situation warrant. “Please note that while we are very confident that we will be able to welcome students back to in-person learning on these announced dates, we will continue to partner with Larimer County and state officials to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the district and community,” read an announcement from the district.

District leadership stated there were three overarching reasons for making the decision they did. One, adjustments to the guidance from the state relating to in-person education.

Two, the district’s ability to now test for the virus at district sites. A partnership created between the district and Larimer County Health Department will now allow testing on-site, hopefully increasing the ability to quickly identify infections.

Three, updates to the state and federal guidelines relating to quarantine and isolation procedures. According to the district, “the new guidance allows isolations and quarantines to be much more targeted than before, which will likely result in an overall decrease of students and staff members being impacted by each incident of COVID-19.” The district did caution that quarantines and isolations are still likely to “still likely occur frequently throughout the district.”

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) released the state’s “roadmap to the return of in-person learning” that outlined several steps to be taken by districts statewide. The TSD’s plans are largely in line with the recommendations outlined in the plan which were generated by a working group consisting of teachers, administrators, health officials and parents.

The report emphasized the importance of in-person learning and stated, “Despite our educators’ heroic efforts to educate students, research shows academic development is suffering. These impacts were likely to be worse for students in the early grades, and in some cases, students were projected to return nearly a full academic year behind what we would see in a normal school year.”

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