GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Teachers for JeffCo Public Schools demonstrated their concerns for returning to fully in-person learning next month with a visual representation of a typical classroom on Wednesday outside the district’s main office. They worry students and teachers will be too close to maintain the recommended physical distance and the risk of transmission will remain high in April.
“Given what we’ve seen after Thanksgiving and after the winter holidays, it’s a pretty likely thing that we’re going to have another surge in the spring,” Amanda Waterhouse told CBS4. “I think we absolutely are moving in the right direction. I just think we’re going there too quickly.”READ MORE: Douglas County Schools To Bring Middle & High School Students Back After Spring Break
Waterhouse is a middle school teacher and along with some her peers used a personal day of action to create a visual model on a patch of grass. They used rope to map out a 30 feet by 30 feet classroom. Stuffed animals represented students who, when in a class of 30, would be spaced closely together, less than six feet and in some cases less than three feet.
“It’s possible for a student to not actually catch the virus, but to carry it home, and so we’re concerned about what those students might be exposing their families and their loves ones to with this increased risk,” she said. “Things are working so let’s just let it work for the rest of the year instead of changing it again.”
JeffCo Public Schools announced last month it would return to in-person learning for grades 6 to 12 on April 5 with two phases; the first one starting on March 15 for those students of highest need. Most students are on a hybrid model where they spend part of the week in a classroom with half the usual size, 15 students.
A portion of families have kept their students remote and can continue to do so through this school year and the 2021-22 academic calendar.READ MORE: Jeffco Public Schools Aims To Offer Flexibility With Remote Learning Next Fall
“We know that one of the biggest stressors for students and for adults is instability and that’s what’s been happening all year that we’ve been trying to fight against,” she said. “It doesn’t work for everybody, but no education method does.”
District staff told CBS4 they expect current guidelines to be relaxed as Jefferson County is now on Level Blue for the state’s COVID dial. This will allow the social distancing expectation to be reduced from six feet.
The concern about transmission has been challenged for months across districts as the data for it happening at schools is low, and students tend to handle the virus better than adults.
JeffCo Public Schools said students are more likely to get and transmit the virus at home or outside of school than in the classroom or on campus.
“I don’t appreciate having people’s lives be put at risk in order to push forward and get them in classes as soon as possible,” Waterhouse said. “We would just like to have more specifics about how to execute their plan in a safe way.”