By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) — New COVID-19 restrictions in the City of Denver prompted Denver Public Schools to switch some students back to remote learning. DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova explained why younger students will remain in school, while 3rd, 4th and 5th graders will return to virtual classes.

“We know that our youngest learners struggle the most with remote learning. These are our developing readers and in-person support is absolutely critical to ensure that they’re getting a solid foundation for their education,” said Cordova. “We know that for the bulk of our upper elementary students, they can more meaningfully interact using technology.”

(credit: CBS)

DPS says the health conditions for middle and high school students are not likely to improve enough before the end of the semester, allowing safe, in-person learning without the risk of frequent disruptions.

“Our overall community trend requires us to shift more of our staff and students into remote learning, as hard as it is,” said Cordova.

Now some 3rd, 4th and 5th grade families and teachers are wondering if they’ll be in the same boat as older students.

“Today, when I told my class we wouldn’t be in person anymore, they said ‘we did our best! What do you mean?’ I had to tell them ‘no honey! It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault,’” said Fallon Newman, a DPS 5th grade teacher.

The district says schools are not what’s driving transmission in our community, but its the students who are missing out because of the community’s failure to keep COVID rates down.

Newman, a teacher with nine years of experience, says the difference in progress with in-person learning compared to remote learning has been dramatic. She agrees with Cordova’s reasoning to keep younger students in the classroom, but Newman says every upper elementary student doesn’t perform at an upper elementary grade level.

“We are in our tenth week of school and I honestly had four kids who could multiply. Then last Wednesday, when their little bodies were sitting in this classroom, every single kid understood multiplication in 10 minutes. Ten minutes,” said Newman.

(credit: CBS)

Cordova said DPS is going to make as much space available in remote learning support centers, but Newman says some of her 5th graders are reading at a 2nd grade level. She says achievement gaps will likely grow if they’re not in class every day. She fears they’ll be severely unprepared for the grades ahead.

“They’re going to middle school, with a teacher who might have 76 kids – God bless them. These kids are my job. This is what I’m supposed to do. I have to make sure they’re at least a 4th/5th grade reading leaving this building. I can’t do that remotely,” said Newman.

Cordova also said COVID risks for students in the early elementary grades are also very low. Her desire is to have all of students back in person at some level, when it’s safe.

(credit: CBS)

The changes go into effect on Monday. Here’s how it will look:

  • Early childhood education (ECE) through second grade will continue to attend full-time, in-person learning as district officials cite critical in-person support, and in-person conditions for these students are low risk.
  • Grades 3-5 will stay open for in-person instruction through Friday, Oct. 30. These students will start remote learning on Monday, Nov. 2 through the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Grades 6-12 will continue remote learning through the end of the semester in December in an effort to help middle and high school teachers and students to focus on learning.
  • Newcomer Centers, Remote-Learning Support Centers, and Special Education Center programs will continue to offer full-time, in-person learning for all grades through the rest of the first semester.

DPS says it’s also weighing the health and safety risks of not being in the classroom as well. They acknowledge the dangers of being fully remote. DPS says there are risks of isolation, depression, normal socialization and a child’s development.

Cordova says concerned families should contact their school directly or the Family and Community Helpline at 720-423-3054 or face@dpsk12.org.

Tori Mason

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