This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
The Denver school district has reassigned campus safety officers to work in elementary classrooms, as the district struggles with staffing shortages during the pandemic. The move has raised concerns for at least one advocate for students with disabilities who learned about the practice.
Most Denver students are learning online due to rising COVID-19 cases in the city. But Denver Public Schools has kept elementary schools open to serve students in preschool through second grade. Special programs for students with disabilities also remain open for in-person learning, as are programs for students new to the United States.
However, staffing classrooms has proven difficult. Some teachers and paraprofessionals have requested to work from home due to underlying health conditions. The district tells staff who are working in schools to stay home if they have any symptoms. In addition, nearly 400 staff members were quarantining at home as of Friday because they’d been exposed to the virus.
To help fill gaps, the district is requiring staff who normally work at its headquarters to work in schools at least one day a week — as teachers if they have a teaching license, or performing other duties if they don’t. The district is also redeploying its campus safety officers, who are unarmed security guards who usually work at middle and high schools.
Thirty-four campus safety officers are currently working in elementary school classrooms instead, Denver Public Schools spokesperson Winna MacLaren said.