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Montezuma County schools, Pueblo Community College prepare to reopen

Plans feature student options, flexibility
In this file photo from 2016, students head into the Montezuma-Cortez Middle School for the first day of school. Local schools are now all preparing for opening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The beginning of the school year is fast-approaching, and Montezuma County schools are working to solidify what that will look like.

Right now, all three K-12 districts, along with Pueblo Community College Southwest, plan to offer a few options to allow for parent choice and to keep up with changing state regulations.

Currently, district start dates are set for middle to late August: Aug. 17 for PCC, Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 and Mancos School District Re-6, and Aug. 24 for Dolores School District Re-4A.

All districts are waiting on guidance from the Colorado High School Activities Association to see what sports and extracurricular activities will look like this fall.

Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1

Re-1 presented its options at a virtual town hall for families and community members Thursday afternoon.

As of now, families can choose either an in-person or remote learning option, with the option to change at semester. Regardless of the option selected, all students will be assigned a Chromebook computer in case of a COVID outbreak or new directive from the state.

Under Option 1, in-person instruction would feature the regular Re-1 curriculum, taught under new health and safety measures for staff and students. Teachers would be expected to prepare for periods of temporary online instruction, in case of a local COVID outbreak lasting up to two weeks.

Staff and students ages 10 and older, based on the most recent governor’s order, would be required to wear masks indoors, and plexiglass dividers in classrooms would allow for small group work or teacher check-ins with individual students.

Extra cleaning is planned throughout the week, and to improve ventilation, classroom windows will be open whenever possible. The district also is upgrading its HVAC systems in its older buildings to improve the ventilation, staff said.

Staff and students would be expected to evaluate their personal health each morning, and parents or guardians would be asked to take their children’s temperatures before school.

And to comply with social distancing requirements, students would be limited to groups of 25, cafeteria schedules would be staggered or students would eat in their classrooms, and one-way hallway lanes and staggered passing periods would likely be implemented to limit the number of students in a hall at one time.

Uncertainty remains about how to handle transportation and extracurricular activities.

For students who wish to stay home, Re-1 plans to offer Option 2, a fully online school program. The online option will be offered through the state-supported program Colorado Digital Learning Solutions, meaning students would learn from teachers at other sites and alongside students in other districts.

Local support from district staff would be provided, Haukeness said at the Thursday town hall meeting.

Parents and families can choose between two registration options: online or in-person at each school site, with necessary health precautions.

Online registration will open up July 27, with instructions available on the Re-1 website. Parents will need to create a Powerschool account.

And in-person registration will happen soon after that: High school student registration day will be July 30 at Montezuma-Cortez High School, while students attending K-8 schools can register at their school Aug. 6.

Stay tuned for more information shared via email, social media, and the district’s website.

Mancos School District Re-6

The Mancos reopening plan is up for possible approval at the Re-6 board meeting July 20.

“We are now deep enough into this global pandemic to know what procedures will work best for the well-being of our entire community,” Superintendent Brian Hanson wrote in the draft plan. “We also know that no plan, apart from not getting our kids back to something close to normal, can 100% guarantee no transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Our plan is designed to be flexible, clear and simple.”

Families can also choose between a return to in-person instruction or opt into a fully online model, also offered through CDLS. Mancos teachers will follow the CDLS curriculum, so that if in-person classes are canceled from “COVID-related scenarios,” they can transition into an online format, according to staff.

For in-person students, parents and guardians are also asked to conduct a temperature and symptom check every morning. Students with a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees are asked to stay home. Staff also are asked to follow a temperature and symptom check every morning.

Re-6 bus riders will be required to wear a mask on the bus, and household members are asked to sit together while being transported. Students in different classes will be expected to enter and exit school through designated doors, with staggered release times.

Hallways in both the elementary and secondary sites will have directional signage on the floors to help students stay 6 feet apart while walking to class. At the elementary school, touchless drinking fountains are being installed to limit hand contact.

Elementary and middle school students will follow a rotating schedule for lunch and recess, while high school students will be dismissed and reminded to follow social distancing and masking procedures when grouping together.

Custodial staff will be on a “constant disinfection routine,” and the school nurse will conduct temperature checks in classrooms if a student shows symptoms.

Online registration for Mancos, also through Powerschool, will open July 30; and on-campus registration, on Aug. 3. For more information, visit the Re-6 website and Facebook page.

Dolores School District Re-4A

The Dolores School District Re-4A plans to operate under a “near normal” model this fall, with a contingency “hybrid” plan in place, in case of new state restrictions or a local COVID outbreak. A fully remote option will also be available for families not comfortable with a return to in-person learning, according to plans presented at a Thursday night town hall meeting.

For the in-person instruction, the district plans to implement similar practices as the others, with limited group gatherings in all spaces, including hallway signage, and a 6-foot social distancing requirement maintained. The district hopes to keep the same student cohorts together as much as possible.

Upon entry to the school, all students, staff and visitors will be screened for symptoms, including having their temperature checked and answering a series of questions developed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Students and staff will be required to stay home if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Custodial staff will focus on “cleaning for health, which includes an emphasis on disinfecting surfaces where bacteria or viruses are most likely to be transmitted,” according to the plans.

If a COVID outbreak occurs or state regulations change, meaning the “near normal” model is no longer possible, the district would implement a “hybrid” model, combining remote learning with more limited in-person instruction.

Transportation services will follow public health guidelines, according to the plans, with the number of students on-board possibly limited, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols implemented. The “near normal” model would follow regular bus routes, while the “hybrid” model would have alternating days for ridership.

For more follow-up information, continue to visit the Re-4A website and the district’s app.

Pueblo Community College Southwest

PCC Southwest expects to start up class operations on Aug. 17.

The college is offering a new option for many classes: PCC Flex. Under this option, students will be able to choose on a day-to-day basis whether or not they want to attend class in-person or online.

“We pride ourselves on being a student-centric institution, and the team here has made remarkable efforts to deliver on the PCC Promise as we maneuver through the COVID-19 pandemic,” PCC President Patty Erjavec wrote in a recent statement. “PCC Flex is another example of our commitment to academic and student success.”

All PCC campuses will follow health and safety precautions. Students and employees on-campus will be required to wear masks, take part in daily health screenings and practice social distancing.

After Thanksgiving break, from Nov. 23-27, most PCC classes will be held remotely for the final two weeks of the term, with the exception of career and technical education classes requiring hands-on instruction or labs.

Class size will be smaller, and classrooms will be rearranged to keep students socially distant from one another, according to Shannon Livick, special assistant to the executive dean of PCC Southwest.