This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Public health officials say it’s inevitable that cases of COVID-19 will turn up in Colorado schools as the school year starts. But as they do, officials stress the use of cohorts as a key way to prevent uncontrolled outbreaks.
Cohorts are groups of students and staff within a school building who interact mostly only with each other. The goal is to limit the number of people anyone is exposed to. As schools try to create smaller cohorts, they have to get creative with new schedules and alternating days.
“It really is one of the most important tools we have,” said Therese Pilonetti, the institutions unit manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
But health officials have left many details of how to create these groups, and how to keep them separate, up to each school district. And teachers and parents have a lot of questions about the logistics of using cohorts to keep students and staff safe whenever in-person classes resume.
The Denver school district cited the inability to create small enough cohorts as one of the reasons it decided to start the semester online. Denver’s draft plans had indicated 60-student cohorts in elementary school and up to 120-student cohorts in high schools. The Aurora school district is planning to cap cohorts at 30 students — a number that some school board members and teachers said still seemed too high.
Here, we’ve answered some questions to help you understand the cohort model better.