Good afternoon Viking Families and Guardians,
I want to announce to you all that the Board of Education last night made a very difficult decision to move the whole district to remote teaching and learning beginning the Tuesday after Thanksgiving break until the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Day. Our best hope is by doing this we will be able to slow the rapid community spread of this virus.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Weld County now exceeds 16 percent, and for our community exceeds 24 percent. The ideal target is 5 percent. In addition, the number of positive cases and hospitalizations in Weld County, including Greeley and Evans, continues to increase at an alarming rate. We have seen a significant increase in positive cases among students and staff. Our count as off this morning is 32 students and at least 16 staff plus two of our CBOCES service providers that tested positive.
Three of our schools have been fully remote because of lack of staff members to take care of business and it has been a continuous struggle fighting to keep schools open. To support the safety and well-being of our staff, students, and community members, we must make this move to remote learning. We saw an increase in cases after Halloween, which was a “short” event, and we anticipate a bigger increase after Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers.
We plan to return to in-person learning two weeks after Winter Break on January 19, 2021, if the number of cases decrease to a safe level.
The last day of in-person learning for all schools is tomorrow Friday, November 20.
I need to be clear that most of the cases we are seeing in our schools are linked back to a positive family member, a weekend get-together, a Halloween party, or a student or staff member who came to the school while sick. We have had very little spread among the cohorts in our schools at this time; however, with the significant increase in confirmed positive and probable cases in our schools and in the community, it is no longer safe to stay in-person. Individual choices and behavior within the community are causing this virus to spread at an alarming rate and impacting our ability to continue in-person learning.
Medical officials from UC Health, Banner Health, and Sunrise Community Health are very concerned with the rapid increase in community spread of COVID-19 causing a high number of hospitalizations and nearing capacity. They said cases are “surging” at a higher rate than ever before. Hospital officials are adding beds but have limited staff to serve a greater number of patients. They said this is a concern across the Front Range.
I am very grateful that we were able to return to in-person learning in August and successfully kept schools open for 14 weeks. That is much longer than many school districts in Colorado. This is because of our teachers, principals, and staff who are so committed to our students and believe strongly, like I do, that children are best educated when they are in our schools. Also, we could not have done this without you, parents, you are our partners and by working together we managed to do in person learning for most students most of the time.
In the coming days and weeks, I want every community member to consider doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 so our schools can return to in-person learning. We must take personal responsibility and make good choices, so we are able to bring our students back. The Centers for Disease Control says that wearing a mask and keeping distance from others is the best way to stop the spread of the virus. Washing hands, frequently disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, and stopping all social activities outside the home are also critically important.
Not one of us wants to do all of this. We are all tired of COVID-19. We want our “normal” lives back. But it is important that we must all continue to do our part and take this pandemic seriously, so we do not prolong these restrictions and the hardship this pandemic is causing hundreds of families every day. I commend all of you who have been disciplined about wearing a mask, avoiding big crowds and events, and sacrificing to keep yourself and others safe. This allowed us to stay open for 14 weeks. Thank you!
We want to ask you to please keep us informed if anyone of our students in your household have symptoms or tested positive so that we can keep monitoring the number of cases. This will help us when determining if it is safe to return to school or to stay remote.
Remember that we have only three weeks or 12 school days between Thanksgiving and Winter break. Please encourage your child/ren to turn in all their work so that they can pass their classes and earn their credits!
The Board also decided that if conditions allow us to reopen in January that we will maintain the status quo; elementary schools and 6th grade will be allowed to continue full time in-person teaching and learning, grades 7 through 12 will continue to do the hybrid platform to keep the numbers smaller in the older age groups for safety reasons. Full time remote learning will still be an option for anyone that requests that.
I am truly sad to pause in-person learning. We all know our students count on us for in-person learning. So many of you have told me we need to stay open and continue in-person. I am hopeful that if everyone does their part, stays safe, wears a mask in public, and takes other precautions, we can bring our students back to our schools in January.
Lastly, next week is Thanksgiving and it is customary to think about everything we are grateful for, even in this difficult time. I want to encourage you to write a few things down and reflect on some of the positive things that you experienced this year. I am grateful to serve you as superintendent and I am thankful for everything we accomplished this year.