BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) – There’s no district in the Denver metro area that has gone longer. “And so it’s hard to tell him, OK now you’re going to be at home and you don’t get to have any interaction other that with Mom, Dad and baby brother,” said teacher and parent Bethany Brown about her conversation with her 5-year-old kindergartener. She had to break the news that school was going to be all from home. The letter had just come out.
“I know this is disappointing news, but want to again remind you of all that we have accomplished this first semester as we have continued planning forward,” wrote superintendent Dr. Chris Fiedler.
They will suspend in-person learning Dec. 1 at the Thanksgiving break. That means after Friday, Bethany’s son won’t be seeing his friends until at least January. The school hopes to re-start in-person learning after the winter break.
“Breaks my heart to be here today,” said Dr. Fiedler. “Because we worked really hard to have kids in school. We opened on time.”
That was back on Sept. 1 with a mix of in-person and online work for older students and full-time at school for elementary students. The district runs a four day school week.
“I just can’t stand the thought of a repeat of March 12, where we were here today and gone tomorrow,” said Fiedler.
The neighboring Westminster and Mapleton School Districts also held on for a long time as the pandemic worsened, but are going to full remote learning“Halloween just killed us,” he explained.
Community spread of the virus meant calls to families and teachers that they might be infected and orders to quarantine. Some got sick. Staffing got very hard.
“And you run out of people to run the building,” said Fiedler. All three comprehensive high schools had to close down last week.
Tuesday, with the governor’s announcements about a new color on the COVID dial and statements about in-person learning, they made the move to issue a letter to go remote.
“We’re thrilled with the language here about the importance of in-person school, it’s not news to us. It’s how we do it. We know it’s better.”
But there is a problem they want the governor to hear about.
“We really need help and a review of these current quarantine guidelines so that we can stay operational,” said Fiedler.
Guidelines require that students or teachers who are quarantined obtain two things before returning. One is a negative test for COVID, another, if there has been no COVID diagnosis, is a doctor’s alternate diagnosis.
“There is a large portion of our community especially here in Adams County, whose families don’t have a doctor. So how do you get in there and get that alternative diagnosis?” he asked. “I think it’s unfair to every district who’s students have families who have difficulty having access to a doctor.”
27J is hoping to have students back for in-person learning after the beginning of the year. Their belief is that it is a safer environment as well as a better place to learn. “We think the schools are safe. No one has more layers of protection, no one has a better idea of who’s coming in and out of the building,” said Dr. Fiedler.