Due to rising cases of COVID-19 in the region, St. Vrain Valley School District decided Wednesday night to return to online learning through December beginning after Thanksgiving break.
During the SVVSD school board meeting, Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach and Epidemiologist Chris Urbina explained the impacts that recent rising COVID-19 cases are having on schools.
The virus is reaching numbers higher than when the pandemic started, Zayach said, largely due to individuals in the community relaxing on safety protocols. He shared data that indicated the increases were tied to holidays such as the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween, when people tend to gather.
He also said that outbreaks seem to be coming from the community and not from the schools. “With all the precautions SVVSD has taken, schools are still one of the safest places for children,” Zayach said.
Zayach explained that as counties reach higher levels on the dial, which are now orange, red and purple, that Boulder County will switch from target quarantining individuals to a generalized quarantine, making it harder to control the virus.
The spread is “beyond being controlled through investigations,” Zayach said.
During target quarantining Boulder County conducts contact tracing and case investigations that result in individuals being asked to quarantine when exposed to the virus. A general quarantine involves quarantining entire classrooms or groups when an exposure happens.
General quarantine measures make it difficult for schools to maintain enough staff to educate students, Zayach said. “It is up to schools to decide if they are able to maintain the staffing needed.”
Urbina emphasized that following basic protocols such as social distancing measures, wearing masks, and handwashing are critically important as COVID-positive case numbers rise across the state.
“If we want to keep kids in school, we all need to take action to prevent the spread of the virus,” Zayach said.
Superintendent Don Haddad said there is no one who does not agree that students learn best in schools. However, due to the rising number of positive cases and the number of teachers, staff and students placed in and out of quarantine, he feels it is time to return to online learning through December.
He hopes that the pandemic numbers will fall again. That could mean students returning to “some sort of in-person learning in January,” Haddad said. That decision will be made prior to winter break to allow families to prepare for the new semester.
Haddad also said teachers are being given the option to choose to teach from the school buildings or from home for the next three weeks. Also, SVVSD is committed to keeping all of its staff employed through the pandemic, even if they are not able to work in their usual capacity, he said.
A more detailed letter with further information is expected to go out to parents, teachers and staff either Thursday or Friday.