By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– The rise in COVID-19 cases has led Denver Public Schools to renew a former health practice. DPS announced Tuesday that masks will be required for all students, visitors and staff inside its buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The announcement came one day after DPS mandated vaccinations for staff.

(credit: CBS)

“The fact that we are engaged in person is a victory. That was not part of the conversation this time last year,” said Dr. Alex Marrero, the new superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Marrero joined DPS families and staff for a meet-and-greet at Kepner Middle School Tuesday evening. The former interim superintendent for City School District of New Rochelle, NY spent his first weeks on the job engaging with his new community. His arrival coincided with the recent surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

“I have heard from folks in Denver Public Schools, the learning community, and of course, the health experts. My way is always informed decision making and making sure I have a pulse and a voice of the community,” said Marrero.

Marrero says DPS has a plan to make sure students and staff are safe, but hopes the district can avoid reverting to severe measures like remote learning. However, Marrero said to say that’s not on the menu would be unrealistic.

Dr. Alex Marrero (credit: CBS)

“We’re hoping we can start to shift to a less restrictive learning environment, meaning mask mandates will be released and then we can reengage in what you remember and what I remember about being a student,” said Marrero.

Guests at Tuesday’s event were given the opportunity to share their thoughts with Marrero on what could be improved within DPS. Families provided a wide range of answers, from investing in teachers to higher quality food. One parent asked how DPS plans to address students’ mental health after so much time at home.

Marrero said mental health is a priority this year, along with equity and accelerated learning. While concerns at the meet-and-greet weren’t directed at the mask mandate, CBS4 heard from other parents still looking for answers.

A DPS father asked CBS4’s Tori Mason, “Being the demographic that is least affected, why are kids not allowed to walk into school and sit down and take their masks off?”

DPS says its working to provide families with a detailed FAQ to address these type of concerns soon.

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“I had a lot of phone calls today and yesterday, and I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more. Overwhelmingly, I’m going to say they were in support. I’m sure some want an explanation why, but overall it’s been a symbiotic relationship and communication,” said Marrero.

The district has provided this video with Denver Health’s Dr. Steve Federico to learn more about the health order its importance in getting students back to school. If families have general questions about the new health order, they can submit them to DPS by completing this form.

Tori Mason