By Trevor Phipps
The Woodland Park RE-2 School District is one of the only districts in southern Colorado still offering in-person learning options.
In Manitou Springs and Cripple Creek, the districts previously chose to switch to virtual learning for all their classes.
As of now, the RE-2 District is offering in-person classes to students two days a week, and then virtual learning the remaining days. The district plans on keeping this hybrid system of education until the end of the first semester in mid-January. District officials are hoping then, the coronavirus levels will go down to the point where they can have in-person classes every day.
According to Tim Cassens, the district’s director of social and emotional learning, the district has been able to stay open due to its safety and contract tracing policies. Cassens also said that they started offering testing for staff members. Any staff member can get tested every two weeks, and when they get back from vacations.
“We have been able to preserve that in-person learning environment because we really feel like we have a handle on it,” Cassens explained. “We haven’t found cases where it has been this kid caught the virus from that kid. We haven’t found that. It has been that if we get a positive case; it’s been that they were around a parent, or a babysitter, or they are in a club sport and there was a case in that outside organization.”
There have been some RE-2 schools put on the state’s outbreak list, but the numbers have stayed small. They have instances where people test positive and they have directly linked the cases to places outside of school.
Cassens also said that student cooperation has also been a key to their success in preventing the spread of COVID-19. “Actually, what has helped us is that our kids want to be in school, and they are following all of the guidelines,” Cassens said. “So, they are really good about wearing their masks, we have hand sanitizer everywhere and we wash our hands all of the time. I think our kids want to be in school so they follow the rules. So, they are probably safer in our schools actually than in our communities sometimes.”
According to Cassens, the district will be able to keep hold in-person classes even if the county gets put into the strictest level of coronavirus restrictions. In the purple designation, the state asks that high schools go to remote-learning, but the regulations allow for some in-person options in other schools.
Currently, Teller County is under a Level Orange designation, considered at-risk. However, its case numbers are teetering into the red arena, which could provide more restrictions.
Cassens said that there are certain state regulations that they must follow. For example, if a certain school gets a high number of cases, then they must shut the school down for two weeks. Cassens also said that schools have had to shut down for a day or two when teachers have to quarantine, and the district cannot get guest teachers to cover the classrooms.
“Our theory is that we are going to work as hard as we can to keep our kids in school,” Cassens said. “So, we are pretty proud that we have been able to keep them in school probably more than most schools in the region and that we haven’t gone remote yet.”
In other school news, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) made the decision to postpone winter sports until the end of January. As a result, spring sports will also have a later start in late March. Currently, most other school activities such as forensics and mock congress have transitioned to virtual formats.