By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Health on Thursday morning came to the assistance of Denver Public Schools. Administrators said they saw a need and donated tens of thousands of pieces of PPE to the school district to protect teachers and staff.

(credit: CBS)

The donation was made in the morning and included numerous boxes full of face masks and face shields, as well as other items.

(credit: CBS)

Young students in DPS got started with in-person school this week. Andrew Miller, head of Denver Health’s supply chain, said helping the district out is partly a personal mission for him because his child just started as a kindergartener in DPS. He said he was first inspired to try to help when his family took part in an emotional teleconference with the teachers at the school.

“We were on there and we were watching the administrators and the principals and the teachers talk about so much of the insecurity they felt about coming back and how it was all going to work and it hit me that we’ve been there. Denver Health was in this exact situation in March and in April. thankfully we had our community, the Denver community at large, who came out in droves to support Denver Health to make sure that our front-line clinical health workers had what they needed. The same opportunity presented itself and so we reached out,” Miller said.

Miller says Denver Health’s PPE supply chain has stabilized in recent months.

While some teachers are grateful for the donations, they’re still worried the district isn’t ready to transition back to in-person learning.

CarolAnn Skeats is a physical education teacher at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy in southwest Denver. She was thrilled to hear about Denver Health’s donation.

“I think the more PPE the better, so I’m really excited to hear that Denver Health donated all of that; that makes my heart really happy,” Skeats said. “I think other teachers are going to be so excited when I go back and tell them, ‘guess what, we just got donated a bunch of PPE;’ they’re going to be so stoked.”

However, she still feels the return to in-person learning is too rushed.

“My kids told me, ‘let them know that we’re scared of getting sick, we’re scared of bringing this home to our families,'” Skeats said. “This is serious, this is something that could end up killing a family member, or a teacher.”

DPS administrators said Thursday that teachers are beginning to feel safer once they return to the classroom.

“I think the teachers, as they’re coming back, what they found is once they get into the environment they’re starting to feel safe and excited about welcoming back students,” said Michael Ramirez, Deputy Superintendent of Schools for DPS. “Obviously, there’s always some nervousness, but we found as students are returning and teachers are anxious to get students back, it’s been really a great opportunity to reconnect, and our leaders have put the proper health guards and safe measures in place to ensure that our students are safe and our staff is safe as we are thinking through this return to in-person learning.”

But Skeats believes DPS needs to create better district-wide policies on how to deal with the virus, rather than leaving that policy-making up to principals. She says principals are stressed.

For example, she believes there should be a district-wide discipline policy about what to do with children who act out in ways that could expose others outside of their cohort to the virus, giving the example of what should be done if a student takes their mask off and runs down the hallway.

“There needs to be some district-wide expectations that are set in stone, if this happens, then we do this,” Skeats said.

Skeats believes the district should hold off on in-person learning until January, to give more time for the district to come up with more solidified policies.

“We have to realize PPE can only do so much,” Skeats said.

Denver Health and Denver Public Schools plan to keep up the partnership for as long as PPE is needed in the school system. If you would like to donate PPE for DPS teachers and staff, click here to find out how.

Kati Weis

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