By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools has almost made it through its first week of in-person learning uninterrupted by COVID-19. It’s a different situation in Highlands Ranch, where one school has already moved some grades to virtual learning due to a number of cases. DPS attributes Denver’s high vaccination rate, in part, to its success so far.

CBS4 met with Will Jones, the spokesman for Denver Public Schools, shortly after their meeting with local health leaders Wednesday afternoon.

“The main thing we want our families to know is that it’s our priority to keep our kids in school,” said Jones. “If we do have to make a switch, then we’re going to have to make that course correction and do whatever we need to do to assure our children are safe, and make sure they get the education they deserve.”

DPS staff aren’t the only ones dreading the thought of a return to remote learning.

Parents who are getting back to their normal 9 to 5 hours worry about the possibility of their children being home at that time. Anthony Chavez, a single father and business owner, was able to be home for his son last year because business was slow.

“Last year was difficult. A lot of people didn’t want us in their homes, you know, doing renovations. That put my business on hold, so I was more available. But it was still difficult,” said Chavez.

Chavez said he would bring his son, a rising second grader at Lowry Elementary School, to job sites when it was safe. Now, business is picking up. He says the price of child care is more than he and most families could afford.

(credit: CBS)

“I would have to completely stop work and stay home because of my single parent status. It absolutely puts my whole life and my ability to care for my family and earn wages on hold. It absolutely stops,” said Chavez.

CBS4 asked DPS if parents would be given enough notice to plan for child care. The district could not provide an answer, but so far it hasn’t had to happen.

DPS says it’s relying on the honor system to track COVID cases. During the month of August, DPS has had 66 COVID-19 cases reported. 22 cases were from students and 44 cases were from staff.

“If there were an outbreak, then of course we’ll have to take more drastic measures. What do those drastic measures look like today? Those details are still being worked out,” said Jones. “I am confident that if there’s something that’s endangering the safety of our staff, our students, or their families, we’re going to take immediate action to make sure that those people are out of harm’s way.”

Parents, like Chavez, who have long questioned DPS’s decisions worry their kids will pay the price for COVID again.

“I think the fact that they’re the least affected demographic is something that’s been widely skipped over,” said Chavez. “We’ve been allowed to go into restaurants and take our masks off. Why haven’t children been allowed to do the same at school? There’s social and emotional development, too.”

According to the City of Denver’s public health order, DPS staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30.

Tori Mason