By Spencer Wilson

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– While the school district itself is small in comparison to the majority of Colorado, Clear Creek County prides itself on being able to safely keep kids in school throughout most of the pandemic so far.

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“That’s thanks to layers on layers of safety measures,” Karen Quanbeck, superintendent of Clear Creek School District explained.

The district has kept a mask mandate in place even through this fall when some schools decided to drop theirs. It offer COVID testing for students with parent permission and keeps air purifiers in each classroom. There is also regular mandatory COVID tests for athletes in the higher grade levels.

Still, after a sobering conversation with the Clear Creek County Health Department, teachers are now preparing for the possibility they will need to switch over to remote learning soon.

(credit: CBS)

They’ve got their distanced learning equipment all set up, but are holding out hope they can safely have kids in classrooms.

“We all have our fingers crossed…”Loraine Swartz, Principal of Carlson Elementary told CBS4.

“Nobody wants to go (remote), we really don’t want to go there,” Swartz said with a pained look.

“If we need to, we will.”

County health leaders have placed the blame for the rise in cases for the county on the comparatively low COVID vaccination rate in the county, most recently reported at 63.9% of people having at least one shot, and the Omicron variant’s increased infectious spread.

Already, Quanbeck is worried about the possibility of a push to online learning, even if the cases in students aren’t the cause.

“My gut is if we need to do that it will be based on staff shortages, I’m getting texts and emails already with folks who are unfortunately COVID positive,” Quanbeck said.

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While the district has said it is flexible trying to fill positions if staff members need to quarantine, there’s only so much they’re prepared for.

“I can do a lot of things, but I’m not qualified to drive a school bus!” Quanbeck said, jokingly.

In the meantime, students are expected back to school Tuesday morning. If the district needs to switch to remote learning, it will give parents a notification before 6 a.m.

Spencer Wilson