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Health & Safety

Putting Health & Safety First

When health conditions and guidance allow students and staff to return to our buildings in person, everyone will be expected to follow the health and safety protocols below, which were developed in partnership with local and state health experts — including the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Metro Denver Partnership for Health (MDPH), and the Governor’s Office. As health conditions change in our community, we will keep you updated on any changes to this guidance.

What Families Can Do

Quarantining for Safety

If there is a confirmed positive COVID-19 test in a cohort, DPS will follow Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) quarantine protocols.

Keeping People Healthy

Masks

All adults and students are required to wear masks (cloth face coverings) when on school grounds, with the exception of time for eating or other designated “mask breaks” that would take place outside. Masks will also be required for students riding the bus to/from school. Face masks are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with everyday preventive actions and social distancing in public settings. Gaiters and bandannas are not recommended face coverings.

Please follow these rules from the CDC when wearing a mask:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily
  • Wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth to help protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms
  • Don’t put the face covering around your neck or up on your forehead
  • Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to disinfect​

How to safely remove a face covering:

  • Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops
  • Handle only by the ear loops or ties
  • Fold outside corners together
  • Place covering in the washing machine (learn more about how to wash cloth face coverings)
  • Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing

Handwashing

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.

Physical Distancing

Students will maintain three feet of distance from one another and from adults. Adults should maintain six feet of distance from other adults, and three feet of distance from students. When physical distancing is not possible, a physical barrier like plexiglass may be used. To support physical 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.

Classrooms will be set up to follow our health and safety guidelines. Classroom seating will be revised to maximize distancing between students as much as possible. Desks will be rearranged so that students are all facing the same direction and community desks will be removed.

Student Cohorts

A cohort is a set group of students who participate in a class or activity together for several weeks. Elementary students can be in a cohort of up to 35 students, as long as they maintain three feet of distance from one another and from adults and follow mask guidance. Middle and high school students also can be in a cohort of up to 35 students, as long as they maintain three feet of distance and follow mask guidance — but schools may choose to create several smaller cohorts so that students interact with no more than 35 students total.

Daily Screening Process

Everyone entering a building, including students and staff, must engage in a daily health screen. All adults and students must show evidence of having completed and passed a symptom screening prior to entering a DPS building. Symptom screening may be a home pre-screen or an in-person screen at the school by school staff and may include an on-site temperature check. Students/staff with a temperature of 100.4 or above will not be able to stay at school. Students and staff should stay home if they are unwell and experiencing symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches, and/or headache.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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. Schools have been provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on the number of students enrolled, the number of teaching stations within the building, and other details. PPE has been delivered to all schools, and we will continue to monitor throughout the year to ensure schools have what they need to maintain a safe environment.

Classroom Materials

We will ask students to not share items as much as possible. Items can be put into differentiated bags and disinfected at the end of the day. If shared, items should be disinfected between use. Group work can still happen — students will just need to follow physical distancing guidelines. Schools and teachers will use lots of visual cues and reminders.

Visitors

To minimize health risks, parents/guardians are discouraged from entering DPS buildings at this time. Parent/guardians who have a reason to enter the building will only be allowed in the front office and will need to follow health screening protocols prior to entering the building. Only school staff, approved district staff, approved contractors, students participating in approved programming, and individuals accessing a School-Based Health Clinic or Mental Health Center, who have completed a health screening and follow health protocols are currently allowed past the front office.

Nurses

With support from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funding, we are working to hire more full-time nurses as well as health technicians who will be trained to help support the health and safety needs of our students and staff. Our goal is to have a full-time nurse or health technician in all district-managed schools. Currently, School Nurses are in buildings in the time allotments determined by each school administrator. At this time, school nurse assignments vary from 1 day a week to 5 days a week. Medications, procedures, and other health care tasks are delegated to staff members by the school nurse who then provides regular supervision and oversight. When there are life- or limb-threatening emergencies, staff are instructed to call 911.

Meals

Students and staff 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 their hands before and after eating.

Keeping School Buildings & Classrooms Safe

Preparing DPS Buildings

The DPS Operations team has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain all DPS buildings and to implement extensive safety measures in buildings across the district. These measures include:

  • HVAC systems: A $5 million districtwide investment allowed for filtration upgrades and optimization of school HVAC systems in order to increase air flow and improve buildings’ filtering capabilities.
  • Air Ventilation: Outside air flow will be increased by opening dampers to 30% during the heating months and running systems for two hours after occupancy to flush the building. 
  • Nursing Stations: School nursing stations received upgrades to ensure a dedicated nursing and/or isolation space in every school that brings all facilities into compliance with current Colorado Department of Health regulations. Sinks were added where needed to ensure access to hot water and a hand washing station. Dedicated restrooms have also been identified for all nursing stations.
  • Water Bottle Filling Stations: Through CARES Act funding, DPS installed 53 additional bottle filling stations at 23 buildings during the summer of 2020 to support safer touch-free access to water. These new installations were based on a ratio of one bottle filling station for every 200 students in secondary schools. Classroom sinks can also be used to provide access to drinking water. 
  • Equipment for safety and social distancing: Sneeze guards have been provided for school front office staff and plexiglass separators have been provided for encouraging separation in other parts of the school as deemed necessary by building leaders. In addition to dividers, over 12,000 individual desks have replaced larger classroom tables to ensure proper student spacing.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

  • Touch surfaces (faucet knobs, flush handles, partition locks, ADA railings) in restrooms will be disinfected three times during the school day and will be fully cleaned and disinfected each night.
  • Classroom high-touch surfaces (desk tops, light switches, door jambs, door handles, sinks, countertops, etc.) will be disinfected each night.
  • Common area high-touch surfaces will be disinfected during the school day and at night – this includes lockers, stair railings, entry vestibules, and cafeterias.
  • Each school facility manager is provided with 1-2 electrostatic ionizers to assist the disinfection process.
  • In the event of COVID-19 outbreak that results in a possible school closure, the facilities team will follow their established plan to take an immediate, aggressive approach to disinfection in order to lower the risk to school staff and students.
  • For more details about our cleaning procedures and safety guidelines, see the full Facility Operations Disinfecting Program.

Maintaining physical distance in classrooms

Classrooms will be set up to follow our health and safety guidelines. Classroom seating will be revised to maximize distancing between students as much as possible. Desks will be rearranged so that students are all facing the same direction and community desks will be removed.

Bathrooms

All restrooms will be cleaned nightly and high-risk touch points (faucet knobs, flush handles, partition locks, ADA railings) will be disinfected 3 times during the day. Schools will stagger bathroom breaks to minimize close contact with students from another cohort.

Lockers

Lockers will not be used, so students should bring items to their classroom. Under limited circumstances, schools may make exceptions for students who need to use lockers as part of their IEP and/or 504 Plan.

Windows, Portable Fans, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems

The opening of windows is permitted and encouraged at the school’s discretion, but ONLY in buildings that do not have air conditioning and when drawing in outside air will not create an overly warm teaching environment. In buildings without air conditioning, it is recommended to open windows in order to draw in as much outside air as possible, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Buildings with air conditioning should keep windows closed in order for the HVAC equipment to effectively bring in, circulate and filter outside air throughout the building. Per the guidance of health officials and industry experts, devices such as portable fans, HEPA level portable filtration, window air conditioning and portable cooling units that may blow air across the room are not permitted, as these types of devices may pose a risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19.

DPS is actively implementing measures throughout the district to make our schools as safe and comfortable as possible. This includes a concerted focus on air quality by addressing aerosols and particulates in the air. In the summer of 2020, the DPS Board of Education approved a $5 million HVAC optimization program to prepare buildings for students’ return to school, and this work has been conducted quickly and efficiently, with an emphasis on schools opening first for ECE programs and those hosting remote learning assistance programs.

Keeping Bus Transportation Safe and Healthy

Changes to transportation services for the 2020-21 school year: Although we’ll be starting the school year remotely, we wanted to provide up-to-date information about bus services to help you plan for the return to in-person learning later this fall. Under the health and social-distancing guidelines for transportation, our buses will only be able to operate at 33% capacity. Unfortunately, this means many students — including most middle and high school general education students — will no longer be eligible to ride the yellow bus to school. Eligible high school students will still be able to use a DPS-RTD bus pass. 

DPS will prioritize transportation for our youngest and highest-needs learners, as well as students legally entitled to transportation, such as those in special education for whom transportation is identified in their individualized education plan (IEP) or those who are experiencing homelessness. The full list of schools that will continue to receive bus transportation services is here. For a guide on how to check your student’s transportation eligibility, please click here.

Masks

Bus drivers and students are required to wear a mask on the bus for the duration of the ride.

Health screening

Before leaving home, please check your student for the symptoms below. Please do not send your student to the bus stop if they exhibit any of these symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Seating

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.

+Pass

The +Pass is a card that students scan when entering or exiting the school bus. This will help us perform contact tracing should a student or driver test positive for COVID-19. Every transportation-eligible student in DPS who rides a yellow school bus is expected to use their +Pass every day, no exceptions. +Passes will be delivered to your student’s school for distribution at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Replacements can be ordered by parents/students through the school or Transportation Services.