DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools announced updates on Wednesday to its plan for students to return to in-person learning. The plan calls for all DPS students interested in returning to school to be back in some capacity by the beginning of the second quarter.
“We want to make sure we’re focusing on how we can support everybody with the opportunities that work best for their learning styles and learning needs, and minimize potential disruptions from exposure to COVID-19,” said DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova. “Typically we see higher attendance in elementary than we do in middle and high school. That’s true in person and in this environment.”
Younger grades of elementary students will be the first to return to in-person learning. Kindergarten students and some first graders will phase in between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2. All first graders will phase in between Oct. 5 and Oct. 9.
Students in second through fifth grades can return to in-person learning on Oct. 21.
“We expect that our students in grades 6-12 will all return at the beginning of second quarter to a mix of in-person and remote learning,” said Cordova, who added plans will vary by school.
DPS says the mix of in-person and remote learning will look similar to hybrid districts, with a minimum of two days in-person learning. That scheduling will depend on the number of students who want to be in-person and the requirements around cohort size.
“A cohort is the total number of students that can interact over a period of time when they’re in person. Class sizes will likely be smaller than a cohort size,” said Cordova.
She went on to say that class sizes will likely be fewer than 35 students, depending on the size of classrooms in regards to social distancing requirements.
DPS says its delayed start to in-person learning has given the district more time to get PPE, improve remote learning plans and help schools avoid hot weather concerns. Some classrooms would not have had air conditioning during the recent record-breaking heat.
Cordova says it’s been heartening to hear from students who want to return to school, but just over 30% of families have indicated that they plan to continue with virtual learning.
“We know that for many of our students, the right choice may be the 100% virtual program. We’ve spoken with many families deeply committed to that, “said Cordova. “It’s really important that we understand some of our students, particularly in our Pathway schools, have gone to work to help support their families.”
Cordova says DPS has seen an increase in remote attendance compared to last Spring.
DPS says it’s in the process of reaching students who’ve made no contact with their schools since remote learning began to determine if they’ve moved, where they are and why they’re not engaging. In May, teachers expressed their concerns to CBS4 about the well-being of chronically absent students during remote learning.
Cordova says it’s imperative that families commit to their preferred learning option, in-person or virtual, by the end of this week.
DPS needs to know how many students will be returning to accurately plan for in-person learning. If families don’t answer, they’ll be automatically enrolled in the virtual program. The choice that families make will only be binding for the remainder of second quarter.