FAQ on COVID-19 Response

Since we transitioned to remote learning in March, we have worked to balance health precautions with the educational and support needs of our students. Every week, we learn more from our health experts about the COVID-19 virus.

Based on updated health guidance, DPS is now planning on a return to full, in-person learning, with health precautions in place for students and staff. We will also provide an option for completely online learning for grades K-12, in order to support students who prefer not to return to school in-person. (The online-only option is not available for preschool students.)

Knowing that the situation may continue to evolve, DPS has worked on backup plans in case there are spikes of COVID-19 that would require us to move a group to online learning. We will follow all health department requirements for how to handle any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our schools.

Thank you for helping us build a plan that prioritizes safety and is responsive to the needs of our community. We will continue to update our Return to School website and the FAQ below as our workgroups finalize details.

Research on Reopening

How and why did DPS make the decision to return to school for full in person learning?

Since we transitioned to remote learning in March, we have worked to balance health precautions with the educational and support needs of our students. Every week, we learn more from our health experts about the COVID-19 virus. We learn from school systems around the world how to keep our students and staff learning, working and healthy. We’ve considered the overall effects of having schools open at full strength for our students and families, something that we have heard is critically important to our community. On June 25, a coalition of all of the metro area local health agencies, announced updated guidance for the reopening of schools in August. Key learnings from the report include: “First, children appear to have lower rates of infection than do older persons and, when infection does occur, are much less likely to have serious complications than adults. Second, while children (including those not showing symptoms) can transmit COVID-19, emerging evidence indicates that children are not primary drivers of transmission and that school reopening is likely to have minimal impact on transmission between students or between students and staff.”

As a result of our collaboration with the health agencies and the hard work of our DPS educator-led Return to School Workgroup, we are now planning to open for full, in-person instruction. This includes all district-run and charter schools.

What happened to plans for a hybrid model? Why is DPS changing course?

The hybrid model that we developed and shared with you in May was based on available guidance from health experts at the time. Based on updated guidance from health experts, we are developing a detailed plan for a return to full, in-person instruction. Knowing that the situation may continue to evolve, DPS has worked on backup plans in case there are spikes of COVID-19 that would require us to move a group to online learning. We will follow all health department requirements for how to handle any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our schools.

Why are we not doing full remote learning for our high schools? These are young adults who are closer in age to adults than children, and young adults are contracting this disease.

The Return to School Workgroup looked into the possibility of keeping high school students in a 100% online learning option. However, the group felt strongly that all students need and benefit from in-person learning. DPS is still working out the details of how in-person learning will look different for high school students, but wanted to provide as full of a high school experience as possible during these unprecedented times. We will continue to partner with health experts and health departments to ensure that our plans are built out with health and safety as our priority.

Health Guidance: Testing, Masks, Quarantining

Masks/face shields

All adults and students are required to wear masks or face shields when on school grounds, with the exception of time for eating or other designated “mask break” that would take place outside. Masks will also be required for students riding the bus to/from school.

Handwashing/sanitizing

Students will participate in observed handwashing/sanitizing at regular intervals. Schools will have supplies of hand sanitizer and soap to allow for frequent hand-washing, and classrooms and school facilities will be disinfected regularly.

Social distancing

Students and staff will maintain six feet of social distancing in indoor and outdoor settings as much as possible. To support social distancing efforts, schools will stagger start and end time times as well as passing periods. Schools will clearly mark off six-foot spaces for specific areas, such as bathroom lines or school pick-up/drop-off locations.

Gloves

Teachers and other staff will not be asked to wear gloves. Cleaning, kitchen and other special staff like Health Care Providers or Occupational Therapists will be asked to wear gloves based on health guidelines.

Symptom/temperature screening

There will be a process to screen all parents/guardians, staff, and students for COVID-19 symptoms before they come into school each day. Based on temperature checks, students/staff with a temperature of 100.0 or above will not be permitted to stay at school. We ask all students, family members, and staff to stay home if they are feeling ill (including symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches, or headache).

Bus / Transportation

Buses will allow only one child per seat, with a maximum of 24 students per bus. Siblings or members of the same household may be permitted to share the same seat.

For elementary students, a parent, guardian or other adult caregiver will be required to remain at the bus stop with the student to ensure the student passes the health screening before boarding the bus.

The bus driver and all students will be required to wear a mask on the bus for the duration of the ride.

How will social distancing be enforced in large classrooms? What about large schools?

Classrooms will be able to operate at full capacity with appropriate health and safety protocols in place. Classroom seating should be revised to maximize distancing between students as much as possible. This may include removing community desks and/or replacing with individual desks.

If students have symptoms, will they be required to bring a medical note stating that they are negative for COVID?

All adults and students will get a temperature and symptoms check when arriving at the building. Students/staff with a temperature of 100.0 or above will not be able to stay at school. Students and staff should stay home if they are known to be ill (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches, headache). Additional guidance will be provided by July 31, based on protocols developed by the COVID response team and in partnership with health departments.

Will schools be provided with sufficient hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies?

Schools will have supplies of hand sanitizer and soap to allow for frequent hand-washing, and classrooms and school facilities will be disinfected regularly. Students will participate in observed handwashing/sanitizing at regular intervals.

What happens if a student or staff member tests positive?

If a student or staff tests positive, the cohort will move to remote for 14 days. If a student or staff has been in close and/or prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive, the cohort will move to remote for a minimum of 3 days to allow for additional disinfecting and monitoring (to be extended based on additional data collected during monitoring period). Staff and students that are sick will not be permitted to return to school until they are healthy. We want to minimize the spread of infection and we will continue to follow the guidelines put forth by our partners at the health department.

Will Personal Protective Equipment be provided for students? What about for staff?

DPS has purchased masks, face shields, thermometers, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray to help maintain a safe environment and prepare for the return to school. We’ll make sure schools receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), based on key information like the number of students enrolled, the number of teaching stations it has, and other details. PPE will be delivered to the schools by the end of July, and we will continue to monitor throughout the year to ensure schools have what they need to maintain a safe environment.

What will the daily symptom screen process look like?

We are currently working to address this question.

Will students be able to share materials for games, literacy centers, etc.?

Classrooms might look and feel a bit different, but they will still be joyful and fun! Items can be put into differentiated bags and disinfected at the end of the day. We will ask students to not share items as much as possible. If shared, items should be disinfected between use. Group work can still happen — students will just need to sit 6 feet apart. Schools and teachers will use lots of visual cues and reminders.

How often will everyone be tested to ensure they are safe? Are rapid test results offered?

We are currently working to address this question.

What will happen during fire drills/emergency evacuation, shelter in place drills and lockdown/lockout?

While this hasn’t been addressed directly at this time by CDE, districts and schools will continue to respond to general emergencies, including evacuation plans, and crisis intervention. We will plan for safe distancing protocols for fire drills, evacuation, and shelter in place. Staff with crisis intervention training will be identified to assist with behavioral and emotional emergency responses.

Can DPS share their criteria for shifting between models? What triggers closure?

We are currently working to address this question.

Has there been any conversation about parents who work fulltime and what should we do if there is a case in their classroom and students are made to stay at home for a two-week quarantine?

We are currently working to address this question.

Will there be proper healthcare providers in the buildings at all times?

We are currently working to address this question.

How will bathroom use be different? How will we keep it safe?

We are currently working to address this question.

What about students with health conditions or Autism/Sensory Processing Disorder - are they expected to wear masks?

We are currently working to address this question.

Is it okay to wear the same mask daily? Or do children & teachers need a different mask each day?

We are currently working to address this question.

Are masks effective when they get wet?

We are currently working to address this question.

Classrooms, Social Distancing

Cohorts

A cohort is defined as a group of students who participate in a class or other activity. Our goal is to minimize the number of cohorts any one student participates in during the day when under DPS supervision. Currently, public health guidance directs us to keep the same group of teachers and students together each day.

  • Elementary Cohorts: Most elementary students will stay with the same cohort throughout the day. Some students might be a part of a second cohort if they receive pull-out supports for Special Education and/or English Language Development.
  • Middle & High School Cohorts: Students in secondary grades will participate in up to four class cohorts in one day. If students have requirements for Special Education and/or English Language Development, at least one course in each quarter will need to meet these requirements.
  • Athletics, Extracurricular Activities and Before- and Afterschool Care Cohorts: Schools should minimize the number of additional school-sponsored groups (such as sports teams, or extracurricular activities) that students participate in to no more than two cohorts per student. The goal is to limit the number of classmates and teachers they are exposed to around 120 for elementary students and around 180 for secondary students including participation on Athletics, Extracurricular Activities, and Before- and Afterschool Care Cohorts.

Recess/physical education

Recess and gym can only happen outside and students will be kept in their classroom cohorts. Recess and gym will be staggered to avoid mixing of cohorts. Students are allowed to use and share playground/gym equipment with their cohorts and must wear masks. Only one cohort will be allowed in an outside area at a time.

How large will the "cohorts", or classrooms be?

Classrooms will be able to seat the normal number of students. Furniture will be placed to allow for as much distance between students as possible. We are also building plans for cohort structures in our schools to minimize the number of contacts that a student/staff has throughout the day.

Will middle school and high schools students be able to change classes throughout the day? How will that work with a cohort model?

We are currently developing guidance for our schools to build out schedules with cohort models, including how to deliver electives and specials. While cohorting will be enforced across our schools, schedules will look different in every school based on the needs of each school.

Will cohorts impact course offerings, particularly at the high school level?

We are currently working to address this question.

Will students be able to share materials for games, literacy centers, etc.?

We are currently working to address this question.

Can kids sit at the same tables and engage with one another?

We are currently working to address this question.

Do kids have to stay 6 feet apart in the classroom?

We are currently working to address this question.

Do the size of cohorts change with the age of students?

We are currently working to address this question.

Will there be additional staff members going in and out of classrooms?

We are currently working to address this question.

What happens if/when students need to move to a new classroom?

When possible, schools will prioritize moving teachers, rather than students. But sometimes, students may need to move to a different learning space, if the classroom they are in does not support the type of learning they need to do. When students need to move, schools will make sure that:

  • The classroom has been cleaned before a new cohort enters. Note: if the cohort is part of the same exposure group (those who would need to be quarantined if one student fell ill), additional cleaning is not necessary.
  • Hallway traffic control guidance is in effect, such as staggered class start/end time times and passing periods. Schools will have clearly marked one-way hallways and in-building spacing for bathroom lines, pick-up and dismissal locations, and bus loading areas.

Procedures for an Outbreak

What happens when someone (staff or student) tests positive

Staff and students that are sick will not be permitted to return to school until they are healthy. We want to minimize the spread of infection and we will continue to follow the guidelines put forth by our partners at the health department.

What protocols will be in place to trace potential infections?

Our district works closely with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and has a strong process in place for reporting infectious diseases, such as COVID, and will continue to work with those in the health department so that the health department can contact trace as needed to help ensure the health and safety of our staff and students are maintained.

ECE Regulations

ECE - What health and safety measures will be in place with nap mats and other communal classroom items?

Nap mats must be spaced out according to physical distancing guidelines and will be sanitized daily. Each student will be assigned a “blue bag” for storing their blanket and sheet. The ECE department is looking into preparing individual boxes of materials for students to avoid sharing commonly used items like scissors, glue, etc.

Will preschool/ECE students be required to wear masks/face shields?

This will ultimately depend on state health guidelines at the time that school begins. Current guidelines do not require 3 year olds to wear masks. 4 year olds are currently required to wear masks, but it is understood that this is a learning curve and will require patience with our youngest students. It is not expected that masks will be required outdoors.

Will ECE students be expected to maintain physical distancing?

Classrooms will be reconfigured in order to provide safe physical distancing. Classrooms may be decluttered with the removal of soft/plush toys and wider spaces will be created. Nap mats (which are easily sanitized) may be used for activities to promote some social distancing.

ECE drop-off, pickup, sign-in

Each school will have procedures in place for daily drop off and pickup. Parents will each use a different pen to sign in and pens will be sanitized daily. Students’ temperatures will be taken with a touchless thermometer.

School Choice/Enrollment

Waitlist position

If your student is on an enrollment waitlist for a school, you may view your waitlist position by logging into your SchoolChoice account. For more information, call the Enrollment Services Hotline at 720-423-3493.

Remote learning and SchoolChoice

If you choose full-time remote learning for your student, this decision has no impact on your enrollment status at your projected or current school, or your waitlist status or position at any other school.

If ECE students choose not to attend in person, they likely will lose their school choice.

What if my circumstances change after I complete the survey? Can we change our preference for online-only vs. in-person?

For the survey, families should select the option (in-person or online-only) they think will work best for their student. However, if their circumstances change between taking the survey and the start of school, they still will be able to change their selection during the formal registration process. We are still developing guidance about what that process might look like after the start of the school year.

Ventilation/Heat Issues

How are we going to provide proper ventilation for schools with no AC?

Schools will increase the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and other methods when indoor and outdoor conditions safely permit. DPS has a team dedicated to evaluating new information related to COVID-19 and air quality within buildings. We will continue to implement and recommend best practices for minimizing heat in schools that do not have air conditioning, while also working with local health officials and industry experts to ensure proper air movement and air quality in all buildings to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

What about "false fevers"?

We are currently working to address this question.

What are we doing for schools that lack ventilation?

We are currently working to address this question.

From an air circulation standpoint, will windows be open?

We are currently working to address this question.

Are we investing in having HVAC systems updated and fixed where they are broken?

We are currently working to address this question.

Meals

How will meals work?

Students (and adults) may not share food. All meals will be served either in the cafeteria or in the classroom. If served in cafeterias, students will get the food at a designated time with their cohort and take it back to the classroom. Students will need to wash hands before and after eating.

Visitors/Parents in Building

Visitors

Visitors, including parents/guardians, are not allowed past the school’s front office and must have a symptom and temperature screening before they enter the building.

Calendar and Bell Schedules, Busing

Are we thinking of opening schools later due to hot weather/masks?

No, based on guidance from local health experts, we plan to open schools as planned on August 17. We will implement heat-related schools closures as needed. Health guidance also indicates that we should maximize learning time at the start of the school year, in case we need to transition to a remote scenario during the fall and winter months, if there is a resurgence of cases.

Is there a reason we can't push the start date after Labor Day to have more room to adjust to evolving changes with this unique situation?

Based on guidance from local health experts, we plan to open schools as planned on August 17 to maximize learning time at the start of the school year, should we need to transition to a remote scenario in the even that there is a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the fall when other illnesses such as the flu are more prominent.

Electives: Choir, Band, Orchestra, P.E., etc.

How will electives be delivered in a cohort model?

We are currently developing guidance for our schools to build out schedules with cohort models, including how to deliver electives and specials. While cohorting will be enforced across our schools, schedules will look different in every school based on the needs of each school.

Will schools still have arts, band, choir, etc.?

We are currently working to address this question.

Transportation

Seat spacing

Buses will allow only one child per seat, with a maximum of 24 students per bus. Siblings or members of the same household may be permitted to share the same seat.

Bus boarding protocol

For elementary students, a parent, guardian or other adult caregiver will be required to remain at the bus stop with the student to ensure the student passes the health screening before boarding the bus.

Masks

The bus driver and all students will be required to wear a mask on the bus for the duration of the ride.

Before/After School Care, Extracurriculars

Will there be afterschool activities including sports?

We are currently developing plans to address this question, and will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

Field Trips/Overnights

These activities will not be allowed for the time being.

Will there be any before or after school programs available?

We are currently working to address this question.

Special Education

What are the mask guidelines for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who need to see lips to understand/communicate?

The determination on masks will be made case-by-case, based on the individual needs of the students. We are providing multiple options that minimize the spread of COVID-19 to support communication between students who are hearing impaired and their teachers/peers. These options include masks that allow for speech reading, face shields, and plexiglass barriers.

How are we handling students with IEPs?

With DPS returning to in-person learning, all special education services will resume the normal process. Our special education department is currently developing guidelines to support students based on the various groups and needs within special education. This guidance will cover a wide variety of issues and topics such as determining compensatory services, families that choose a remote-only option, making up missed evaluations, and how services will be delivered under the current in-person health guidelines. When instructional staff return to work, they will be trained in these guidelines. Families will work with their school level team to problem solve individual concerns.

For students who are typically in both general education and special education classes, what will their schedules look like now?

For most students in DPS, there should not be any significant changes. The decisions will be determined by the school IEP team. Placement in special education and services are unique to the individual students. Once the health guidelines are finalized, then the special education department will develop guides for school team to consider when making individual student decisions regarding their schedule and how services will be delivered.

Funding

Our funding for schools is based on a per pupil headcount. How will this work if a percentage of kids are doing online learning? Will students going online take money from the student's home school?

No changes are currently planned for school budgets based on remote learning. If a student chooses to participate in remote learning, they will be registered at their school of record and then have a concurrent enrollment in remote learning. As a result, students going online are not currently planned to impact school budgets.

100% Online Option

If I my child is in the online option, when and how can s/he transition to in-person learning? What about transition from the in-person learning to the online option?

We are currently developing plans to address this question, and will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

What does it mean to participate in the online option? Who will teach my child?

Once we have information from our family survey about which students are likely to participate in the online option and information from our school-based staff about who will not be able to teach in person, we will build out more robust staffing models for our online option. This family and staff data will help inform how we staff our online school and whether the online option will be delivered centrally or at the school level. We will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

If my child is in the online option, will they still have a seat in their school of choice?

K-12 families who choose to enroll in the online option will not lose an enrollment spot at their current school for when they return to in-person learning.

How will students with IEP, GT, and/or 504 plans be supported in the online option?

We are currently developing plans to address this question, and will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

Will DPS be uploading true working samples of what online learning would look like for each grade level so that families can get a true feel of what it would look like before choosing that option? It would be great to have a true online sample day for each grade level.

We are currently developing plans to address this question, and will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

Will students have connections with their teachers and classmates?

We are currently working to address this question.