Third-graders are seen on their second day of school on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, at Second Creek Elementary School in Commerce City. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

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Saying the risks of quarantine outweigh the risk of disease, a Colorado school district insists it won’t report COVID cases to local public health authorities, even though state officials say the law requires it.

“It is our judgement, backed by months of student and community observation and interaction, with corresponding experiential data, that the risks of quarantine far outweigh the risks of the disease,” District 49 CEO Peter Hilts wrote in a communication to families Thursday. “That is why we will not facilitate voluntary reporting and contact tracing that are designed to direct healthy individuals into quarantine and isolation.”

Hilts initially laid out his approach to COVID this school year in a memo in early August, as well as in a briefing to the school board, as first reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette. After leading his school district through the 2020-21 school year, Hilts concluded that too many students had to quarantine and that frequent switches to online learning were bad for students.

“Our experience last year was that quarantines were almost a reflexive response to any report [of COVID], verified or second hand, suspected or confirmed,” Hilts told Chalkbeat. “We sent thousands of students into quarantine who never got sick and in some cases they missed weeks of instruction.”

But when Chalkbeat asked Gov. Jared Polis about the district’s decision at a press conference Wednesday, he said schools must report COVID cases: “That is the law and that is unambiguous.”

State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy reiterated that point at a separate press conference Thursday and again in an interview with Chalkbeat.

Read more on Chalkbeat Colorado.

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...