Brenda Najera works on a laptop in a classroom in Newlon Elementary School on Aug. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, many sizable Colorado school districts are offering online learning programs this fall. But data shows very few students are choosing that option.

In 10 districts surveyed by Chalkbeat, only between 1% and 2% of students chose the fully remote option for the 2021-22 school year. That’s a dramatic decrease from the past school year, when a significant portion of students opted to learn online.

In Denver, for example, about a third of the district’s approximately 90,000 students chose to stay online for the second semester last school year amid a spike in COVID cases statewide. But district data shows only 1% of Denver students had chosen the remote option for this coming school year as of late July, even as case rates in the city creep back up.

Several districts cautioned that the numbers are still in flux. Despite deadlines that passed months ago, officials are allowing families to change their minds before the first day of school.

Dina Puente is still undecided. One of her teenage daughters has chronic health conditions, including asthma and allergies, that could make her really sick if she got COVID. In-person learning is a bigger risk for Puente’s family but she said her kids miss the social interaction of school. Her daughters lost touch with friends because they stayed online last year, she said.

“At the beginning of summer … my decision was to send my girls to in-person learning,” said Puente, who lives in Denver. But watching the spread of the more contagious delta variant, she said, “I’m thinking, ‘I want them to go in person, but now I want them remote.’”

Remote learning has been the educational hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools across the country switching to online classes to try to slow the spread of the virus.


Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...