This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Colorado’s pediatricians and educators are urging Gov. Jared Polis to take stronger action to slow the spread of the coronavirus in order to preserve the possibility of students attending school in person.
“As community spread increases, in-person school will be less and less feasible if concerted efforts are not made to prioritize classrooms across our state now,” members of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the state’s two teachers unions, and other organizations, wrote in a letter to Polis.
The letter was sent Tuesday, the same day that Polis launched a new campaign called “Step Up Colorado” to encourage people to limit social gatherings and increase their use of masks as the number of cases and hospitalizations rose at alarming rates. In a press conference, Polis deflected questions about whether he would impose new statewide public health restrictions and expressed confidence that Coloradans would exercise personal responsibility.
“Coloradans care a lot about their families, their loved ones, their own lives, and that’s why I’m confident we’ll do better,” he said.
The day before, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Aurora Public Schools both announced older students would learn from home, and two days later, Aurora decided that nearly all its students would go back online. Denver Public Schools, the state’s largest district, is keeping middle and high school students online at least until Nov. 9, and Adams 14, a suburban district that serves a high percentage of students in poverty and English language learners, is remaining remote until the end of the calendar year. On Friday, the small Sheridan district, where many students are homeless, said students would go remote for a week.
Asked about the school closures, Polis emphasized that “most kids are back in school.” But tens of thousands of students still don’t have access to the classroom, and tens of thousands more are learning at home because their families don’t feel safe. While many experts say that school buildings are relatively low risk, high rates of community transmission increase the likelihood of disruptive quarantines and spread in schools.