Simla Elementary School kindergarten teacher Holly Koehn's classroom at the Big Sandy School Monday, February 25, 2019. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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As Colorado students start the school year using various learning models — online, hybrid, and in-person — the state still requires school districts to take attendance and offer a minimum number of instructional hours.

That’s a change from the spring, when buildings closed on short notice and the state waived many rules.

The Colorado Department of Education is giving districts some flexibility in how it meets those requirements. That should make it easier for school districts to count students next month in order to claim state funding. It’s also an important measure of how engaged students are with learning.

State officials want to balance holding districts accountable for educating students and acknowledging that this school year isn’t exactly normal. Not all children have reliable internet access or adults at home who can keep them on track through the school day, but they may be doing school work at other times. Some advocates worry that so much flexibility means less oversight over students getting a quality education.

Colorado is not alone in handing districts a lot of the authority in this area. A review published by the Center on Reinventing Public Education showed that most states have not created new requirements around attendance for remote instruction.

“While states are not waiving instructional requirements outright, they are not being clear about how schools should grade students’ work, monitor attendance, or assess graduation requirements,” the center states.


Yesenia Robles is Chalkbeat Colorado’s Suburban Reporter looking at changes happening in Denver’s suburban school districts. Yesenia grew up in Denver, graduated from CU Boulder and is fluent in Spanish. She previously covered suburbs, education...