Curtis Durham helps his son, Wyatt, 10, with schoolwork at home on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, following the closure of JeffCo Public Schools in response to the new coronavirus. Durham is considering homeschooling his two children. He’s giving homeschooling a trial run while his kids learn online through the district. (Dagny Durham, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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Jeffco Public Schools will open its middle and high schools to students starting Jan. 25, just one week after bringing elementary students back to the classroom, the district announced Friday.

This is an earlier return for secondary students than district officials had expected in December. They previously said that secondary students would return to buildings when the county sees consistently improving COVID trends and if elementary schools remain operationally stable, with the earliest possible date being Feb. 1.

Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh said in an email to the community that several factors influenced the decision to bring secondary students back sooner, including overall trends in COVID cases, “a strong desire of both students and families to return to in-person learning,” a larger pool of substitute teachers that will allow the district to better manage staffing issues, and greater availability of coronavirus testing.

After starting the second semester with remote learning, Jeffco elementary students will return to classrooms five days a week on Tuesday, and middle and high school students will return to classrooms on a hybrid schedule the following Monday.

Around the state, districts that have been remote since November are bringing students back in phases. In Jeffco, the state’s second-largest district, secondary students have been fully remote since the week before Thanksgiving, and elementary students have been remote since just after Thanksgiving break.

Jefferson County currently has around 488 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, slightly below the state average, and a test positivity rate around 6.1%. Statewide, COVID cases have increased since late December, but it’s not clear yet if the post-Christmas bump will turn into a sustained increase or level off.

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Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...