By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools will start the year with online learning only and that phase will continue at least through mid-October due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, DPS announced that school will start a week late, Aug. 24, and the first two weeks will be remote learning only. Now that plan has been changed to 100% remote learning through Oct. 16.

“We expect we will return to this option during the year in response to coronavirus,” said DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova during a live news conference that was streamed online.

She also said that DPS is working to ensure a “robust, remote learning for all of our students.”

(credit: CBS)

Cordova explained part of the rationale for this decision is based on guidelines from the World Health Organization. One factor includes whether the positive test rate of COVID-19 around five percent so the district is monitoring the percentage in Colorado.

“We are working closely with our public health partners to build a framework and monitor key metrics that will inform or planning,” she said.

The superintendent said she is working on prioritizing families who need in-person learning before Oct. 16 because of the burden remote classes creates for them.

“It’s blindsiding, once I get a phone call or we have to depend on social media or the newscasts to what is already decided,” said John Johnson, a parent of a student at East High school. “I don’t have any choice but to adapt.”

Johnson says he wanted to have more input in the decision making process, he does not feel the perspective of parents was weighed enough before the announcement on Wednesday. He says his family has the resources to make remote learning possible as he is working from home as well.

He still worries about the ability of students like his son to focus outside of the classroom. Whether he likes the decision or not he says his family will make the change work, his fear is for those who can’t.

“What expanded opportunities may be given to students who have struggled or parents who don’t have the resources?” he said.

(credit: CBS)

“We owe it to our kids and there’s no reason why we can’t we building the highest quality remote learning plans that we possibly can for our students and families,” Ariel Smith said on a video conference call with CBS4. “The districts and schools need to be partners with parents in helping them to understand the progress their students are making.”

Smith is the co-founder of Transform Education Now, a nonprofit that works with families in the metro area to improve access to education resources. During the pandemic, they have helped parents successfully guide their students through learning remotely.

Smith says recorded teaching lessons is a major step to make the process more inclusive to families with conflicting work schedules. She also said improved communication is needed between districts and families across Colorado.

The district says most classes will be live and will follow a dedicated schedule. Services will continue for English Language Learners as well as those who need social-emotional support.

“One of the hardest parts of planning for the return of school in the middle of a pandemic is keeping the inequity and safety at the forefront,” Cordova said. “My gratitude goes out to the entire DPS staff and the DPS community.”

For parents like Johnson the most important thing going forward is that students receive a quality education.

“Are students getting what they need? Is the accountability there?” Johnson said.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association released this statement on Wednesday afternoon:

DCTA supports Superintendent Cordova and the DPS School Board’s decision to extend remote learning until October. We need to prioritize people’s lives and focus on quality instruction, instead of scrambling to open before the community and the schools are ready. Extending remote learning allows more time to collaborate around meticulous plans for in-person reopenings. We appreciate that the superintendent has been responsive to the voice of educators and look forward to our continued dialogue with the district.

Shawn Chitnis

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