Update – Middle and High Schools will Return Full Time April 5
March 10, 2021
Dear Cherry Creek Schools families,
Since July, I have said our ultimate goal as a school district is to bring students back for full In-Person learning as soon as it is safe enough to do so. The data and science tell me that we have reached that point.
All CCSD middle and high schools will reopen for full In-Person learning on Monday, April 5, and will continue in that capacity through the end of this school year.
As a reminder, this change is for students who chose In-Person for their learning option this year and have been attending school on the hybrid model. Cherry Creek Elevation and K-5 Online learners will continue following their regular schedules through the end of the school year. For In-Person learners who do not feel ready to come back to full In-Person learning, we will offer a remote option that will allow students to finish the year without coming back full-time (more details will be shared regarding this option in the near future).
As I have done all year, I relied on data and science to make a decision about when to return middle and high school students back to full-time In-Person learning. You can view the presentation that I made to the Board of Education Monday evening here.
Here are some of the major factors I considered in making this decision:
- By April 5, all teachers and staff will have been prioritized and invited to be vaccinated and will be 14 days past their second inoculation date, thus reaching full efficacy.
- Waiting until April 5 also gives us two weeks after spring break, which allows time for families and staff members who traveled to monitor themselves for symptoms and get tested if exposed during that travel. This buffer of time is designed to lessen the chance that the virus is brought into schools by someone who may have become infected during the break prior to changing our model.
- Our internal data about positive COVID cases among staff shows that teachers are less likely to contract COVID when we are in school. The highest number of staff positives occurred during the period of full Remote learning between Thanksgiving and the end of winter break, with 446 positive cases – over 3.5 percent higher than the months leading up to and following that period when schools were open for In-Person learning.
- The week of March 29 – April 2 must remain hybrid for the district to administer CMAS testing in middle schools and to not have to collect computers from students. By remaining in a hybrid model for this week, we will have enough computers on hand for testing days.
- As we approach April, additional categories of people will become eligible to receive vaccines. As identified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, many people in our community, including 16+ year-olds with underlying conditions and those 50+, will be able to receive a vaccine before April. This will provide additional protection in the school and home environments.
- In July 2020, research demonstrated younger children (11 and younger) play a smaller role in onward transmission of COVID when compared with adults. Updated research through the pandemic and highlighted by Dr. Fauci extends this to those 14 and younger (8th grade).
- Virus levels in our community continue to decline, and hospitalizations are at the lowest point since the start of the pandemic.
- One of the most important measures that I considered when making this decision is the extremely low rate of potential in-school transmission. Since we started this semester in January, we’ve had 4,066 students and staff quarantined. Of those, 17 individuals became COVID positive while on quarantine. That is a transmission rate of 0.42%.
As we finish this year, we will continue to maintain critical overlapping safety strategies, such as mask wearing, increased ventilation and free COVID testing for all students and staff in the district. This decision will allow our In-Person learners to finish the school year in as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.
This has been an immensely challenging year, but I continue to be inspired by the resilience and hard work of our students, families and staff in both In-Person and Online learning models. Let’s finish this year strong and give our students an end of the year that makes them excited to come back in August.
Scott A. Siegfried, Ph.D.