A school bus carries children on a road near Cortez in southwest Colorado. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

School districts across the state — including Colorado’s largest — have announced they are closing or are contemplating closures as the new coronavirus outbreak sweeps from Aspen to Denver.

Denver Public Schools on Thursday announced it will extend its spring break by two weeks in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The break, which begins Monday, will run until April 6 for teachers and until April 7 for students, Superintendent Susana Cordova said during a news conference Thursday evening.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

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Denver schools will be open on Friday as a transition day to the extended break while the district will hold “drop-in days” on Monday and Tuesday at schools so that students can retrieve their backpacks, school supplies, medication and other belongings.

“I know that this can be a time of anxiety and uncertainty,” Cordova said. She added that the district’s top priority is the health of students and staff.

The district will disinfect schools during the extended break.

And while DPS does not typically serve any meals to students over spring break, it will open up eight locations where students can stop by for free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals.

Those locations are: Lincoln High School, Joe Shoemaker School, Place Bridge Academy, Denver Center For International Studies’ Baker campus, North High School, Manual High School, Montbello High School and Evie Dennis Elementary School.

The long-term closure comes after DPS on Thursday closed three elementary schools due to coronavirus fears: Cory, Edison and John H. Amesse, according to the district’s website.

In a tweet, DPS said two members of a John H. Amesse Elementary School student’s family are among Colorado’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. Another tweet from the district noted that a parent of a student at Edison Elementary is a confirmed case.

The changes announced by the district were largely driven by evidence of community spread of COVID-19, the term used to describe the spread of the illness among people who have not been in contact with individuals who have traveled, said Dr. William Burman, director of Denver Public Health.

Burman said that the district’s efforts around social distancing will be part of a broader set of policies put in place for social distancing.

Jefferson County Public Schools announced a similar closure for its schools, tacking on an extra week to spring break. Schools will be closed from March 16-27.

Aurora Public Schools announced plans to extend its spring break for another week, along with Pickens Technical College, in response to the coronavirus. Break will run from March 16-27, a post on the district’s website noted.

The district will reexamine conditions by March 27 to determine whether to open schools back up to students and staff on March 30.

“We know that extending the break will have an impact on families, but we also believe that strong, urgent action must be taken to prevent the spread of this disease and to protect lives,” the website post stated.

APS is also canceling athletic events, activities, childcare and other events during the break and will intensively clean all schools and district facilities, according to the post.

Gunnison Watershed School District also has decided to close schools in Gunnison and Crested Butte starting on Friday, with plans to resume classes on March 30. The district will facilitate online learning while schools are closed, according to an announcement posted on the district’s website.

“While we do not yet have confirmed cases within our school community, we are taking preventive measures to reduce the spread of this illness by practicing social distancing,” the announcement stated.

Boulder Valley School District announced its schools will be closed on Friday through the end of spring break on March 27 because of coronavirus concerns.

And St. Vrain Valley Schools said schools will be closed on Friday, but families and staff will be able to retrieve medication, devices or other learning materials. The closure will extend through the end of spring break on March 27, the district said.

Other school districts that have announced closures include:

  • Academy District 20
  • Lewis-Palmer School District 38
  • Colorado Springs School District 11
  • Cherry Creek School District
  • Widefield School District 3
  • Aspen School District
  • Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6

Additionally, public libraries near the affected Denver schools closed on Thursday, according to the Denver Public Library’s website. Those libraries include Montbello, Smiley, Woodbury, Virginia Village and Eugene Field branches. The library system has not decided when it will reopen those branches.

Late Thursday, Cherry Creek School District, Littleton Public Schools and Douglas County School District announced two week closures beginning after school on Friday. All plan to reassess the coronavirus situation before reopening on March 30.

Folsom Field at the University of Colorado in Boulder is just one of the major construction projects as the campus has continued to grow. (Doug Conarroe, Special to The Colorado Sun)

CU Boulder employee tests positive

A University of Colorado Boulder employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email distributed Thursday to the campus community.

The university employee reportedly worked in the campus’ Center for Community on Monday from 8 a.m. to noon, the email stated.

“We are taking additional steps to close and disinfect any areas where it is confirmed this employee was present,” the email said.

The university plans to close and disinfect any areas the employee is known to have occupied. The case is presumed positive until it’s confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CU Boulder, which on Wednesday announced a plan to transition to online classes for the rest of the spring semester, does not plan to close its campus at this point. The university is in contact with the Boulder County Public Health department.

People who have been in close proximity to the employee are being asked to remain home for 14 days and assess their symptoms.

This story was updated at 4:32 p.m. March 13 to include more closures by Colorado school districts.