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Planning the 2020-21 School Year: A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders

Planning for the 2020-21 School Year: A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders

Planning the 2020-21 School Year. A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders for Feedback

Overview

The content areas below will give you a sense of the areas in which we will be providing guidance. More detailed guidance will be added over time.

As the situation evolves, we will continue to gather feedback, add resources, and expand on these considerations to help you think through these complicated times.

CDE invites your feedback and ideas for this framework and toolkit:

Provide Feedback

Reopening schools will involve considerations around health and safety, continuity of learning, conditions for learning, planning and communications and policy and funding.


 Latest Updates (last updated May 14, 2021)

This toolkit is continually updated. In each new update, this area will note key additions or changes since the prior version.

Archived Latest Updates: 2020-21 Planning Framework and Toolkit

For questions and answers about masks in schools and elsewhere, please visit covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance.


  • Reopening Schools: Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase
  • Introduction
  • Health and Safety
  • Continuity of Learning
  • Conditions for Learning
  • Planning and Communication
  • Policy and Funding
  • Additional Resources
  • Acknowledgements
  • Advisory Committee
  • Contacts

Reopening Schools: Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase

Introduction

CDPHE, CDE and the Governor’s Office worked together to develop this guidance for Local Public Health agencies (LPHAs) and districts as they develop school plans.

The guidance has been drafted in light of evolving scientific knowledge about the spread of COVID-19 among children and in schools, as well as real-world disease control knowledge acquired through months of experience at the state and local level. Input has been solicited from both internal and external stakeholders, and their invaluable comments and suggestions have been instrumental in developing practical, broadly applicable guidance.

The guidance is organized by the level of COVID-19 incidence in the community: Stay at Home (high level of COVID-19), Safer at Home (mid-level of COVID-19), and Protect Our Neighbors (lower level of COVID-19).

Safe at Home

Safer at Home

Protect Our Neighbors


Goals

  1. Support in-person learning in as a safe and healthy way as possible.
  2. Ensure a reasonable level of safety for students and staff for in-person learning.
  3. Minimize disruptions to education by facilitating timely responses to COVID-19 through cohorting students and staff when possible, screening for symptomatic individuals, and coordinating closely with local and state public health agencies.
  4. Ensure equity in educational opportunity by considering learning and health needs of all students, including those with varying health conditions, economic backgrounds, language skills, or educational needs.
  5. Encourage flexibility, adaptation, and innovation as schools develop novel approaches to disease control appropriate to local contexts and as scientific knowledge about COVID-19 transmission and control develops.

Guidance Rationale

  • Global COVID-19 evidence suggests that younger children play a smaller role in onward transmission of COVID-19 1. The risk of transmission between young children and from young children to adults is lower than the risk of transmission between or from older children and adults. The risk to children is likely lower than that of yearly influenza, accounting for both primary disease and Multisystem Inflammatory Disease in Children (MIS-C). This is why kindergarten and elementary schools should have different guidelines than secondary schools.
  • The risk of transmission between children and from children to adults is low, and the risk of transmission to adults is greater from other adults with either symptomatic or asymptomatic infection. Therefore, the most important limit to classroom size for adults is the number of adults required to be in close proximity.
  • Given the limited role young children likely play in transmission, there likely is minimal benefit relative to the great difficulty of physical distancing young children within a class to prevent COVID-19 spread. (American Academy of Pediatrics) Moreover, physical distancing has the potential to negatively impact appropriate child development in this age group. Therefore, focus should be placed on other risk mitigation strategies that better complement the learning and socialization goals of children up through 5th grade. In secondary schools there is likely a greater impact of physical distancing on risk reduction of COVID-19.
  • Cohorting significantly reduces the number of students and staff who will need to be excluded in the event of a case of COVID-19 in a school by limiting the number of close contacts of each individual (all of whom will need to be quarantined up to 14 days if they have close contact with a case). Considerations about the number of close contacts should be included in decisions about transportation and activities as well.
  • For COVID-19, a close contact  as defined for schools based on a number of factors, including duration of contact, mask wearing, and the activities taking place when the contact occurred. CDPHE has provided a tool to help determine who is a close contact of a case.
  • Protection efforts applied collectively (for example social distancing AND masking AND cohorting) will provide stronger protection than any one effort in isolation as it will reduce the transmission of disease and minimize the disruption to in-person learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the authority to declare the phase (or level) in a county?

The phase in a county is determined based on the Dial framework which uses three metrics to determine the level for a county. These include the number of cases of COVID-19, test positivity, and hospitalizations. Local public health agencies (LPHAs) and CDPHE work together to jointly determine the level appropriate for each county. Follow the link above for more information, including a dashboard which displays each county’s current dial level and transmission metrics.

What does "require" mean in these phases?

Executive Orders, issued by the Governor’s Office and State Public Health Orders, issued by the state or local government, are legal requirements that apply to all Coloradans. Local public health agencies and local governments can choose to enact stricter guidance than the state. In some cases, local governments may seek and be granted a variance from the state’s orders that may allow for looser restrictions. Public health guidance, such as this document, and the CDE Toolkit provide many examples and strategies for schools to comply with orders. At the local school level, districts, BOCES, and charters may also adopt policies related to COVID-19 that include tighter restrictions.

Do local public health agencies approve district or school fall opening plans?

No, unless required by the LPHA.

Who has the authority to intervene if a district or school is not following requirements or guidance within Executive Orders issued by the Governor’s Office and/or Public Health Orders issued by the state or local government?

The LPHA has the authority to enforce requirements in Executive Orders and Public Health Orders. Likewise, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has the authority to enforce requirements in Executive Orders and Public Health Orders.

 If school districts have questions about the legal implications of their local planning decisions, those districts should contact their legal counsel.

With public health orders changing often, CDE has continued to work to update what is identified as required, guidance or considerations within the CDE Framework and Toolkit. There is a legend throughout the toolkit that provides these definitions. If an item is labeled as “required” it lives within a current public health order or executive order for K-12 Education.  If the item is identified as “guidance” this is a recommendation for “how to” implement a statute or rule. They are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.  At the same time, we acknowledge that all of these guidelines may not be met with 100% consistency at all times.  And, last, if an item is identified as a “consideration”, this is an idea to think about as schools/districts make their own decisions.

P-12 public school and private schools for the purpose of providing meals, housing, facilitating or providing materials for distance learning, and providing in person learning or other essential services to students as determined by the school or school district in consultation with the local public health agency. Such institutions are required to work with state and local public health officials and follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine and shifting to remote learning.  

How do the executive and public health orders, this guidance and the CDE toolkit all fit together?

The Executive Orders and Public Health Orders set the policies we all need to follow. This “phased” guidance is designed to help LPHAs and districts make local decisions about school on health and safety precautions that meet the requirements of the Executive and Public Health Orders. The CDE toolkit is a broader set of ideas, resources and guidance on a myriad of other topics concerning school in the era of COVID-19. If provided, LPHA guidance is specific health guidance or orders for your local community, and ultimately they all help districts plan for operating safely this school year.



COVID-19 Transmission Mitigation Tactics

Overview

There are multiple approaches to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. As feasible, use all of the transmission mitigation tactics below.

When it is not feasible to use all of the mitigation tactics, consider how to layer them. For instance, if students cannot remain 6-foot apart, cohort students. Cohorting is the most important strategy to keep schools open. If strict cohorts cannot occur, some cohorting is better than none. In addition, consider layering other tactics, such as masks, to reduce transmission risk.

Deciding how to implement multiple layers of protection is specific to the local school/district community and grade level. Additional grade-level-specific guidance, based on the health guidance by COVID-19 phase,is provided in the charts below.

Jump to a Section:


Lower Risk


Cohorts

Strict Cohorts

COVID Contained Response With Cohorting diagram

Congestion

Open Spaces

Congestion - open - lower risk

Distance

6 feet Apart or More

Proximity more than 6 feet lower risk

Gatherings

Within Recommended Gathering Size

Group size less than recommended limit lower risk

Masks

Wearing a Mask

masks on lower risk

Movement

Directed Movement

Movement directed lower risk

Respiratory Output

Normal Respiratory Output

Respiratory - Normal output

Time Together

Less Than 15 minutes Together

Duration less than 15 minutes lower risk

Touching Surfaces

Minimal Touching of Surfaces

Touch lower risk

Higher Risk


Cohorts

Broad Cohorts

COVID Widespread Disruption Without Cohorting diagram

Congestion

Tightly-Packed Spaces

Congestion - tight - higher risk

Distance

Less Than 6 Feet Apart

Proximity less than 6 feet higher risk

Gatherings

Above Recommended Gathering Size

Group size Greater than recommended limit higher risk


Masks

Not Wearing a Mask

mask off higher risk

Movement

Undirected Movement

Movement undirected higher risk

Respiratory Output

Increased Respiratory Output

Respiratory - Increased output

Time Together

More Than 15 minutes Together

Duration more than 15 minutes higher risk

Touching Surfaces

Increased Touching of Surfaces

Touch higher risk


Guidance Regardless of Phase


School Environment and/or Activities

Physical Distance (applies more strongly to middle and high school settings)

Class and Cohort Size

  • Cohorting: the practice of keeping the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day. Ideally, changes in cohorts are timed to align with school semesters or trimesters after lengthy breaks, but even shorter blocks of time, such as two weeks, can be effective. Cohorting helps limit the number of contacts each individual has. As a result, if quarantines or dismissals are needed, they may affect fewer people, resulting in fewer disruptions to in-person learning. Students may be in multiple cohorts (for example, bus ride to school, after-school sports, classroom).
  • Class sizes and cohorting guidance will vary with phase and grade level (see below).
  • Cohorts are encouraged to reduce contact with others.
  • Cohorts reduce the number of exposed students/staff from a confirmed COVID-19 case and will result in fewer students/staff required to quarantine.
  • Special service providers need not be included in the teacher-to-classroom ratios. These providers should minimize contact with non-client students and other adults in classrooms.
  • Develop a plan for staff who travel between schools (e.g., school nurses, psychologists, therapists). For example, consider allowing them to have virtual meetings in place of physical school visits and revise scheduling to limit their visits to multiple campuses.

Minimize Transmission Risk

  • Use physical barriers as appropriate to decrease respiratory droplet transmission.
  • Refer symptomatic employees and students to a health care professional for evaluation and potential testing, as well as to the CDPHE Symptom Support tool. (Additional Guidance), and report to local public health agencies 3.
  • Identify a dedicated room or space to isolate symptomatic individuals until they can return home or to a health facility, cleaning and disinfecting appropriately between use. Locate isolation space apart from health office functions.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces and shared objects (Additional Guidance).
  • Maximize ventilation and increase circulation of outdoor air, referencing ASHRAE guidance (PDF)
  • Ventilation Guidance from CDPHE
  • Keep hand sinks stocked with soap and paper towels. Use signage to encourage frequent hand washing.

Confirmed COVID-19 case

  • Prepare to shift to remote learning (2 - 14 days) when school closures or cohort dismissals occur in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case among students or employees.
  • CDPHE has provided exposure definitions, return-to-school guidance for both ill students, staff and their contacts, and outbreak definitions on their website.  These represent a statewide standard.

Coordinate with local public health

  • Know your LPHA contact.
  • Be prepared to provide information about students and staff who were in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

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Employees

Masks/Face Coverings/PPE

  • Comply with applicable state and local orders, in addition to below.
  • Require face coverings over the nose and mouth for all staff, including during in-person instruction, unless they cannot medically tolerate a face covering. (Additional Guidance).
  • If needed, face coverings may be temporarily removed or transparent alternatives may temporarily be substituted when learning differences interfere with instruction.
  • If necessary, the mask may be removed for instruction for the shortest duration possible.
  • Even when in a cohort, face coverings over the nose and mouth are required for all staff.
  • Adults are required to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth when they are with other adults including in faculty lounges.
  • For questions and answers about masks in schools and elsewhere, please visit covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance.

Health Screenings

  • Employees will undergo home temperature and symptom screening or self-screening.
  • Remain home if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or if a family member or other close contact has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms.
  • Employees unable to complete screening prior to arrival will undergo screening on site. Maximize privacy and minimize exposure to others during onsite screenings.

Work Environment Options

  • Consider developing staff leave, online learning options, and alternative work duty policies that support employees working from home.
  • Comply with legal requirements to provide alternative work assignments for older adults, pregnant people, and those identified as at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Hygiene/Safety

  • Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Train staff on specific health/safety protocols.

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Protecting Students/Parents

Masks/Face Coverings

  • Comply with applicable state and local orders, in addition to below.
  • There is a state public health order that individuals 11 and over are to wear a mask/cloth face covering. Masks are also strongly recommended for children between 3-10 years.
  • Encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, except during outdoor recess and exercise activities.
  • Require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students ages 11 years and older, including during in-person instruction unless the student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask.

Health Screenings

  • Establish guidance for parents on temperature checks, home hygiene, and attendance/reporting procedure.
  • Students will undergo home temperature and symptom screening or self-screening.
  • Remain home if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or if a family member or other close contact has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms.
  • Students unable to complete screening prior to arrival will undergo screening on site. Maximize privacy and minimize exposure to others during onsite screenings.
  • How to conduct a facility health screening

Populations identified as at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19

  • Encourage parents/guardians of children with special health needs to discuss the risks and benefits of in-person vs. remote schooling with their health care provider.
  • Facilitate alternative arrangements (including remote learning and strategies to reduce risk of in-person learning) when appropriate.

Transportation

  • Reduce the risk of transmission by limiting capacity of school buses, having household and classroom units sit together, and establishing more frequent and shorter trips.
  • Bus services should follow guidelines developed for public transportation, with the exception that household groups may sit closely together with appropriate distancing between household groups.
  • If physical distancing is not feasible on a bus, all students must wear cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision.
  • If physical distancing is feasible, encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, and require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students age 11 years and older, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision

Hygiene

  • Wash hands frequently: 20 seconds with soap and water.

Areas other than classrooms

CDPHE Dial Metrics

 

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Footnotes

3 CDPHE is currently developing a school surveillance system to help track the number of symptomatic students/staff.


Guidance for Stay at Home


Classroom Guidance 2

Grades K-5

  • Remote learning, except for a limited number of students requiring in-person education due to specific learning needs.
  • Up to three adults rotate per classroom per day with a strict cohort of students.
  • Maintain 6-foot distance between adults.

Grades 6-8

  • Remote learning, except for a limited number of students requiring in-person education due to specific learning needs.
  • Up to two adults rotate per classroom per day with a strict cohort of students.
  • Maintain 6-foot distance between all people .

Grades 9-12

  • Remote learning, except for a limited number of students requiring in-person education due to specific learning needs.
  • Since students in grade 9-12 transmit the virus like young adults, limit size to no more than 10 in a cohort including the teacher and students.
  • Maintain 6-foot distance between all people.
  • Rotating teachers should be avoided.

Staff-Only Activities

  • Remote or outdoors if possible; groups of 10 or fewer if physical attendance is required.

Cohorting Guidance 4

  • Students should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week; staff should remain with the same classroom throughout the week.

Footnotes

2 Classroom size guidance is contingent on the availability of learning spaces appropriate to accommodate students and teachers with appropriate physical distancing. Schools may consider using alternative learning spaces (e.g. outdoors, gymnasiums, multipurpose rooms, etc) to maximize social distancing.

4 Cohorts describe stable groups with fixed membership. For a classroom setting, cohorting is achieved by maintaining the same group of students together throughout the day across many weeks. While students may be members of more than one cohort, each additional cohort greatly increases the number of individuals who may be exposed to a case of COVID-19. Cohorting facilitates disease control by minimizing the number of contacts each individual is exposed to. This, in tun, limits the scope of dismissal and closure activities in the event of a detected case of COVID-19 or other disease.

Athletic, extracurricular and cocurricular activities will vary by phase, and will be addressed in separate guidance from CDPHE.

Stay, Safer, and Protect Complete Framework (PDF) - specific metrics


Guidance for Safer at Home


Classroom Guidance 2

Grades K-5

  • Continue remote instruction if best for your community.
  • Up to four adults per classroom per day. So, only 4 teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day.
  • Students in grades K-5 do not need to meet the 6-foot distance in classrooms or other locations.
  • Normal class sizes may occur.

Grades 6-8

  • Continue remote instruction if best for your community.
  • Up to three adults per classroom per day. So, only 3 teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day.
  • A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Local schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood some adjustments for each school will need to occur.

Grades 9-12

  • Continue remote instruction if best for your community.
  • A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood some adjustments for each school will need to occur.

Staff-Only Activities

  • Remote or outdoors if possible; groups of 10 or fewer and outdoor groups of 25 with 6-foot distancing and wearing face coverings over the nose and mouth.

Cohorting Guidance 4

  • Students should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week to prevent full school closure if a case is identified.
  • Cohorts should have staggered recess periods, and movement to specialized classrooms (e.g. science lab) should be coordinated to avoid mixing of cohorts.
  • To increase cohort feasibility, consider staggered or alternating in-person schedules (e.g. M-T/W-F, AM/PM, or alternate weeks), block scheduling, or hybrid of in-person and proctored remote learning.
  • The same staff may alternate during the day between two "partner cohorts."
  • Cohorts may be realigned during the school year to support student educational needs. Longer durations of stable cohorting and changes that coincide with school breaks or dismissals enhance the effect of cohorting.

Footnotes

2 Classroom size guidance is contingent on the availability of learning spaces appropriate to accommodate students and teachers with appropriate physical distancing. Schools may consider using alternative learning spaces (e.g. outdoors, gymnasiums, multipurpose rooms, etc) to maximize social distancing.

4 Cohorts describe stable groups with fixed membership. For a classroom setting, cohorting is achieved by maintaining the same group of students together throughout the day across many weeks. While students may be members of more than one cohort, each additional cohort greatly increases the number of individuals who may be exposed to a case of COVID-19. Cohorting facilitates disease control by minimizing the number of contacts each individual is exposed to. This, in tun, limits the scope of dismissal and closure activities in the event of a detected case of COVID-19 or other disease.

Athletic, extracurricular and cocurricular activities will vary by phase, and will be addressed in separate guidance from CDPHE.

Stay, Safer, and Protect Complete Framework (PDF) - specific metrics


Guidance for Protect Our Neighbors

Overview

CDPHE and CDE worked together to develop "Reopening Schools: Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase" to help Local Public Health agencies (LPHAs) and districts as they develop school plans.

The following questions have come up as districts and schools explore the guidance. CDE and CDPHE will continue adding to this list as we receive additional questions.  


What is the number of adults that can interact with high school student cohorts?

The Protect Our Neighbors and Safer at Home phases do not have a limit on the number of adults that may interact with high school student cohorts. The total number of individuals, including teachers and students, should be determined based on the ability to maintain appropriate spacing within the classroom. The total number of individuals, including teachers and students, should be determined based on the ability to maintain appropriate spacing within the classroom.

 

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Can partner cohorts be used at the Safer at Home stage?

Students should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week to prevent full school closure if a case is identified. The same staff may alternate during the day between two "partner cohorts," but the students should not mix with other cohorts.

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Can a K-2 building provide in person instruction as normal? If so, are the students allowed to move throughout the building for specials, lunch, recess, etc.?

Stay at Home

Remote learning, except for a limited number of students requiring in-person education due to specific learning needs. Up to three adults rotate per classroom per day with a strict cohort of students. Students should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week; staff should remain with the same classroom throughout the week.

Safer at Home

Continue remote instruction if best for your community or;

Up to four adults per classroom per day. So, only 4 teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day. Students in grades K-5 do not need to meet the 6-foot distance in classrooms or other locations. Normal class sizes may occur. Students should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week to prevent full school closure if a case is identified.

Protect Our Neighbors

If strict cohorts cannot occur, some cohorting is better than none. In circumstances where stricter cohorting is not feasible, the greatest practical degree of cohorting should be employed in conjunction with other layered risk reduction strategies.

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Do we have to cohort students?

All guidance provided in this document is intended to help schools decide when and how to open for in-person learning safely; the emphasis placed on cohorts reflects the importance they play in both disease control and facilitating uninterrupted in-person education for as many students as possible. Cohorts are encouraged to reduce contact with others. Cohorts reduce the number of exposed students/staff from a confirmed COVID-19 case and will result in fewer students/staff required to quarantine. There is the ability to do less than what is in the cohort guidance, but be prepared to pivot to full-time remote learning in the situation of a COVID-19 outbreak.

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What do you foresee to be the role of special education teachers and related service providers (speech pathologists) in the cohort model? Do they enter cohorts to work with students or continue to move students from their cohorts for 1:1 or small group instruction elsewhere?

Special service providers need not be included in the teacher-to-classroom ratios. These providers should minimize contact with non-client students and other adults in classrooms. Special service providers may enter cohorts to work with students or they may choose to move students from their cohorts for 1:1 small group instruction, depending on the learning needs of the student(s).

If possible, closely associating special service providers with one or more cohorts will reduce the scale of disruption to learning if a special service provider is identified as a COVID-19 case. 

Special service providers, such as physical therapists and others, who support multiple school settings should follow the same guidance as other special service providers in a singular school setting.

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To better understand cohort guidance, would a cohort size of +/- 150 be okay at high school (six different classes per week with 25 students in each class)?

Safer at Home and Protect Our Neighbors

A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood some adjustments for each school will need to occur. However, the greater the size of the cohort, the greater the number of students/staff that will need to be quarantined in the case of even a single confirmed COVID-19 case.

Schools should carefully weigh the benefits of increased scheduling flexibility of larger cohort sizes against the frequency of disruptions to in person learning that larger cohorts would entail. Given that community transmission of COVID-19 continues throughout Colorado, sporadic cases are likely to occur even in the most well-controlled school settings.

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Would guidance around the cohort size differ depending on how many classes a student attends per day (2 per day over three days, 3 per day over 2 days, etc.)?

Cohort size is dependent on classroom sizes. Schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood that some adjustments for each school will need to occur. Within Safer at Home K-5th students do not need to meet the 6-foot distance, and only 4 teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day; for 6th-8th cohorts should work towards 6-foot distance, and up to 3 teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day; for 9th - 12th cohorts should work towards 6-foot distance, and there is not a teacher cap that may access the cohort.

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We need more clarity on Cohorts vs. Classes vs. Gatherings. What is the difference?

Cohorts are an identified group of students and staff who only have contact with each other. Secondary cohort sizes (gathering size) may vary because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. Students in a cohort remain together as they access the same classes together.

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What are the parameters for how large those might be, or what the size of the exposure group might be when adults / students change cohorts? (or are you thinking High School for example only stays with 1 group of say 30 kids?)

In Safer at Home the high school cohort should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week to prevent full school closure if a case is identified. The same staff may alternate during the day between two "partner cohorts." There is the ability to do less than what is in this guidance, but be prepared to pivot to full-time remote learning in the situation of an outbreak.

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How can a small high school meet graduation requirements and ICAP requirements for individual students and also cohort students? Would we limit course offerings or waive graduation requirements?

The State Board of Education allowed for flexibility for districts for graduation guidelines for the class of 2021.

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How do substitute teachers impact the number of adults that can access a cohort?

Substitute teachers when substituting for a teacher who is absent may access the teacher’s cohort as would the assigned teacher. Substitute teachers need to wear masks/cloth face coverings, and they are encouraged to work towards 6-foot distancing from students and adults, as feasible. Schools should attempt to keep the same substitute teacher with the same cohort during prolonged absences of the primary instructor.

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Can two (2) younger cohorts play outside together and should the equipment be cleaned after each cohort?

Safer at Home (K-5th grade)

Students in K-5 should remain in their primary classroom with the same cohort of students throughout the week to prevent full school closure if a case is identified. This includes indoor and outdoor activities. Playground equipment may be used by the primary cohort of students as long as they wash their hands upon returning into the school. Outdoor equipment does not need to be cleaned or disinfected between cohort use. Indoor gym equipment may be used, if the equipment is disinfected after each group of students' use. Consider staggering recess times for each class/cohort.

Protect Our Neighbors (K-5th)

For students in K-5, if strict cohorts cannot occur, some cohorting is better than none. In the Protect Our Neighbors phase, two (2) cohorts of K-5 students could play outside together. Playground equipment may be used by small groups of students as long as they wash their hands upon returning into the school. Outdoor equipment does not need to be cleaned or disinfected between cohort use. Indoor gym equipment may be used, if the equipment is disinfected after each group of students' use. Consider staggering recess times for each class/cohort.

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Can a cohort consist of multiple grade levels, such as a school campus that includes 7-12th grade students for a total of 53 students? Can the 53 students be considered one (1) cohort?

If a school decides to create a large cohort beyond the standard classroom size, be prepared to pivot to full-time remote learning in the situation of an outbreak. Smaller cohorts are encouraged to reduce contact with others. Smaller cohorts reduce the number of exposed students/staff from a confirmed COVID-19 case and will result in fewer students/staff required to quarantine.

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By allowing four (4) adults to rotate into a classroom, teachers might work with multiple cohorts. If a teacher rotates into four (4) classes that could create an exposure group of approximately 120 students. Can schools choose to have less than four (4) teachers rotate into a classroom?​

Yes. If feasible, schools may choose to reduce the amount of teachers accessing a cohort to reduce contact with others. Safer at Home and Protect Our Neighbors (K-5) allows for up to four (4) teachers per classroom per day. Safer at Home (6-8th) allows for up to three (3) teachers per classroom per day. Protect Our Neighbors (6-8th) does not include a teacher limit.

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If one (1) of the three (3) teachers seeing students in cohorts is exposed are all 3 cohorts to be quarantined?

Yes.

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What is the high school athletic guidance? How will cohorts and activities / athletics work?​

We recognize that school sports and other extracurricular activities are an important part of the school experience for many students. Extracurricular activities, whether conducted within a school setting or in separate club teams, present another context where students may be exposed to COVID-19, potentially leading to disruptions to in-person learning.

CDPHE is developing youth athletics guidance separately from our school guidance to represent the risks of exposure in this different arena. Part of this guidance is a general classification of risk of different athletic activities, from low-contact outdoor activities like cross country to high contact indoor activities like ice hockey.

With regards to the effect of a case on a school sports team on the academic environment, it is important to bear in mind that while a single case who is part of a school cohort and athletic team may lead to quarantine, testing, and exclusion of other members of the athletic team and school cohort, the scale of the exclusion would likely be the size of the team (say 77), plus the size of the cohort (say 30). The entire school would not necessarily need to close unless a large number of cases are identified on the athletic team.

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What is the before and after school program guidance? How will school cohorts and these programs impact cohorts?

There are a variety of before and after school programs, including but not limited to early drop off or late pick up programs, tutoring, and extracurricular activities. Before and after school programs present another context where students may be exposed to COVID-19, potentially leading to disruptions to in-person learning. Before and after school programs within the K-12 school setting should follow the health guidance of the school. 

With regards to the effect of a case on a before/after school program on the academic environment, it is important to bear in mind that while a single case who is part of a school cohort and before/after school program may lead to quarantine, testing, and exclusion of other members of the before/after school program and school cohort, the scale of the exclusion would likely be the size of the before/after school program, plus the size of the classroom cohort. The entire school would not necessarily need to close unless a large number of cases are identified from the before/after school program. 

 

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The Safer at Home 6-8th grade guidance states that up to three (3) teachers should rotate into one specific classroom per day. Does this mean that students would only have exposure to three teachers on one day?​

Yes.

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Are student-teachers considered a part of the total teachers per classroom per day that may access a classroom cohort? 

Student-teachers should be assigned to one mentor teacher in a school and follow that teacher’s schedule.  When student-teachers are in the classroom, they are to wear masks/cloth face coverings and to keep a 6-foot distance from students and staff in the classroom.

 

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But could the 6-8th grade students have exposure to three (3) different teachers another day?

No, this is not recommended. Although there is the ability to do less than what is in this cohort guidance, be prepared to pivot to full-time remote learning in the situation of a COVID-19 outbreak. If instruction from a different group of teachers is planned for a single cohort, attempt to have the changeover between groups of teachers occur over school breaks or other scheduled dismissals (e.g. consider implementing a block schedule).

 

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Interested in guidance on how we conduct drills- fire, tornado, lockdowns?

Here is a link to school fire and evacuation drill guidance (PDF) from the Colorado Department of Public Safety

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Our school district is located in a county, where the county commissioners are not recognizing the Governor's Executive orders. They are also not applying for the designations in those orders. What guidance can the CDPHE or CDE give our school districts on the guidelines we should follow given the limitations placed on our local health officials to provide that essential advice?

The Local Public Health Agency has the authority to enforce requirements in Executive Orders and Public Health Orders. Likewise, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has the authority to enforce requirements in Executive Orders and Public Health Orders. Schools and Districts are strongly encouraged to follow the recommendations provided in the K-12 Education Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase, and they may do so even if the county commissioners do not recognize the Governor's Executive Orders.

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Should classroom doors be propped open to the outdoors to increase ventilation in the classroom?

Propping doors to which open to unsecured areas outside of the school creates an unsecured learning environment that could result in harm or death to students and staff. Doors to the outside are not to be propped open. Instead consider purchasing individual classroom air conditioning and/or ventilation units using either ESSER or CRF funds. Updated allowable uses guidance for ESSER & CRF funds.

Ventilation Guidance from CDPHE

Other Strategies To Improve Ventilation – The updated Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report on risk reduction strategies for reopening schools focuses on risk mitigation strategies in physical school buildings, such as social distancing, masks and ventilation. Updated in November 2020 to address new scientific research results and to improve clarity in several instances, pages 9 and 31-35  in the report provide tangible tips on improving building ventilation.  For example, they recommend a number of low- or no-cost strategies to increase natural ventilation, including opening windows and using window or box fans. Portable air cleaners (just a few $100.00 each) with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters may be useful to reduce exposures to airborne droplets and aerosols emitted from infectious individuals in buildings.  

 

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Are there outlined acceptable standards for HVAC ventilation systems for school buildings with COVID-19? Can smoke-effective HEPA filters help in classrooms?

CDC has outlined general guidance for ventilation systems when used as part of an infection control strategy. While this guidance is directed towards an audience of healthcare facilities, many of the principles are applicable to school settings.

In terms of air filtration mechanisms, the following chart from the CDC may be useful:

Table 5. Filtration methods*

Basic method

Principle of performance

Filtering efficiency

Straining

Particles in the air are larger than the openings between the filter fibers, resulting in gross removal of large particles.

Low

Impingement

Particles collide with filter fibers and remain attached to the filter. Fibers may be coated with adhesive.

Low

Interception

Particles enter into the filter and become entrapped and attached to the filter fibers.

Medium

Diffusion

Small particles, moving in erratic motion, collide with filter fibers and remain attached.

High

Electrostatic

Particles bearing negative electrostatic charge are attracted to the filter with positively charged fibers.

High

Filtration is only one component of an HVAC system, however, and a comprehensive approach to optimizing HVAC systems for infection control should consider direction of air flow, dilution with outdoor air, and other factors.

CDPHE is developing specific guidance for HVAC systems in the context of COVID outside of healthcare settings.

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Is there any possibility that an exception could be made for usage of CRF $ to improve HVAC systems?

ESSER and CRF funds can be used to update the physical building. This is especially important for HVAC systems, which can be updated with MERV 13 filters or higher to reduce the spread of aerosols.

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How can school districts efficiently stay abreast of rolling infection rates?

CDPHE does not expect school districts to stay abreast of rolling infection rates. Instead CDPHE will collaborate with the local public health agency to share this information as it applies to schools and the general public.. School opening phase is determined by the overall phase of the county in which the school operates. Additional information may be found at the CDPHE Data website. 

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What are the metrics to qualify for Stay at Home, Safer at Home, and Protect Our Neighbors phase?

The Protect Our Neighbors criteria may be found here.

Stay at Home is a determination made by the Governor’s Office.

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Can 6th grade follow the K-5 guidelines because they are part of an elementary school (K-6)? 

Some elementary schools are K-6 schools, and they may choose to follow the K-5 guidance to support consistent expectations across the K-6 campus. However, students who are 11 and older are required to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth, unless the student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask.

 

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Between Safer at Home and Protect Our Neighbors at the 6-8th grade level, it seems that one of the main differences is that masks could be optional if 6-foot physical distancing is implemented… Is that what is intended?

Safer at Home (6 - 8th)

No. Masks/cloth face covering are required to be worn over the nose and mouth for staff and students ages 11 years and older, including during in-person instruction, unless the staff/student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask. Students do not need to wear masks/cloth face coverings during outdoor recess and exercise activities where appropriate distancing can be maintained.

Protect Our Neighbors (6-12th)

Counties that have been certified under Protect our Neighbor do have the option to "opt out" of the mask Executive Order. Currently, as of July 22, 2020, there are no counties within the Protect Our Neighbors phase.

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When working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing and the staff who support them, do we follow the guidelines from CDPHE that indicates they do not have to wear masks?

 

Full time wearing of cloth masks may not always be a viable option when teaching or supporting students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Face shields or plexiglass barriers may be used as a temporary alternative, if additional precautions are taken, including physical distancing when feasible and strict cohorting.

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Are masks required if maintaining six foot distance in a classroom?

Yes.

Staff:

  • Require face coverings over the nose and mouth for all staff, including during in-person instruction, even if 6-foot distancing in a classroom is met (Additional Guidance) unless they cannot medically tolerate a face covering.

Students:

  • Encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, except during outdoor recess and exercise activities where appropriate distancing can be maintained, unless the student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask.
  • Require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students ages 11 years and older, including during in-person instruction unless the student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask.
  • Masks do not need to be worn during outdoor recess and exercise activities where appropriate distancing can be maintained.

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Can counties in Protect Our Neighbors “opt out” of the executive order requiring masks for ages 11 and older?

Counties that have been certified under Protect our Neighbor have the option to "opt out" of the mask Executive Order. Counties may also seek variances for specific aspects of the Safer At Home order. More information is available here: https://covid19.colorado.gov/protect-our-neighbors

 

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Will medical grade masks be provided by the state to school staff for this school year? I heard 1 N95 per staff member per week?

We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership in this area, and it is one more safety precaution and tool to reopen schools safely. We are working on those details with the Governor's office and will share more later. Because of Colorado’s success in acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE), the Governor announced on July 24th that all K-12 schools will receive one medical grade mask per week per teacher for at least eight weeks. This includes all district public schools, private schools, charter schools, facility schools, and boarding schools. The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will contact districts to determine where to send the masks to starting around August 17th. For more information, you can visit the KN95 Masks for Colorado Schools webpage.

 

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Can face shields replace the face masks under the current executive order?

No. Face coverings over the nose and mouth are required for all staff, including during  in-person instruction (Additional Guidance) unless they cannot medically tolerate a face covering. While there is limited data to support face shields as a mechanism preventing transmission of respiratory droplets, this data is not as robust as that for face masks or cloth face coverings. Clear face shields are not expected to be as effective as face masks in controlling disease spread.  (Lindsley WG, Noti JD, Blachere FM, Szalajda JV, Beezhold DH. Efficacy of face shields against cough aerosol droplets from a cough simulator. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2014;11(8):509-518. doi:10.1080/15459624.2013.877591)    

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Accommodations for Masks in School and Sport Club Activities (provided in collaboration with CDPHE)

Q. Who is required to wear a mask when indoors?

A. Everyone over age 10 should wear a mask indoors. Masks  are highly recommended for everyone over age 3, and masks reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the school. A few limited circumstances justify permitting a person to avoid wearing a mask indoors due to safety concerns. These include:

  • Children too young to wear a mask safely

  • People who cannot remove their mask due to physical or cognitive limitations

  • People experiencing medical emergencies

Q. Are masks required during indoor athletics?

A. Yes. Masks are required during all indoor activities , including physical education classes and school sponsored athletics. The limited exceptions to this requirement are aquatic activities and in circumstances where the mask itself is unsafe (e.g. poses a risk of strangulation) or interferes with required safety equipment. In such cases, masks should be worn at all times by participants, coaches, and spectators when not actively engaged in the activity.

Q. Are individuals with certain medical conditions, including those which affect breathing or the heart, required to wear a mask?

A. Masks provide significant protection to both the wearer and those around them, and individuals with medical vulnerabilities may be at higher risk of an adverse outcome if they do contract COVID-19. For this reason,  all individuals who can wear a mask safely must do so. Mask wearing, is especially important for individuals with medical vulnerabilities. Children’s Hospital Colorado has a helpful FAQ which provides more detail. Decisions about individuals with medical conditions should be made with individual providers. 

Q. Must school-based athletic programs and sports clubs provide reasonable accommodations for individuals who have a disability which prevents them from wearing a mask?

A. Yes.  A school must consider in a timely manner  a request for an exception to a face mask policy  if necessary for a student with a disability to participate in, or benefit from,  school sponsored programs and activities. A school need not modify its mask requirement if the individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. 

Such a determination must be based on an individualized assessment that considers the particular activity and the  abilities and disabilities of the individual student. To ensure a timely and appropriate response to any request for reasonable modification, a school should designate at least one individual to receive and review these requests.

Q.  What should schools be aware of when faced with a request for modification of the mask requirement?

A. Unlike accommodations for other conditions (e.g. installing ramps for individuals with mobility limitations), an unmasked person  may be unknowingly contagious with COVID-19 and pose a health risk to those around them. The unmasked participant is also at significantly higher risk of contracting COVID-19 from others, and could be at higher risk of an adverse outcome due to their underlying medical condition. 

Screening for COVID-19 symptoms alone provides inadequate protection, because asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic individuals have been demonstrated to be able to spread COVID-19. 40% of adults who are contagious with COVID-19 have no symptoms, and the percentage is likely higher in school-aged children. Additionally, individuals with COVID-19 are contagious for 2 days before symptom onset. 

While other layers of protection  can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in a setting, masks provide an irreplaceable reduction in respiratory droplet and aerosol exposure. Schools and sports clubs must strongly consider what accommodations are possible which would not place an undue burden of excess disease risk on other participants in the activity. There may be circumstances in which a school may properly refuse exemptions to its mask policy.

Q. What types of accommodations might a school or sports club consider?

A. A prescriptive set of accommodations is not possible, as the needs of each individual and the circumstances of each activity vary. However, accommodations may be divided into several broad categories:

Substituting equipment

There are a wide range of masks available, including many designed specifically for athletics created by major sporting equipment manufacturers. These are often made of moisture-wicking fabric and are designed to be comfortable under higher respiratory effort. Prior to considering participating without a mask, individuals with concerns should consult with their physician and try several different models of mask.

Substituting activities

Indoor sports pose a higher risk than outdoor activities, and activities that involve regular close contact (e.g. volleyball) are higher risk than those where close contact is less frequent (e.g. track and field). In addition, athletic activities which emphasize coordination and explosive strength (e.g. baseball/softball) may be more tolerable while wearing a mask than activities which require longer periods of sustained exertion (e.g basketball).

Reducing the number of individuals at risk

An unmasked athlete who is unknowingly infected with COVID-19 will create high quantities of infectious aerosol that can travel far beyond 6 feet, particularly in an indoor setting. In addition to other participants, spectators and others in the indoor space are placed at risk. A school or club may consider excluding spectators and other non-participants from the indoor space where unmasked play is occurring.

Maximizing other protections

Maximizing ventilation, including by opening windows and doors, operating HVAC systems at the highest setting, using MERV-13 or higher grade filters, and thoughtful placement of fans, will help reduce the risk of transmission to other individuals in the arena. Increasing spacing between participants (both active and inactive) and between unmasked participants and spectators may also reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, ventilation and spacing will not fully eliminate the extra risk posed by an unmasked participant, particularly to other participants.

Allowing for informed choice of other participants

Because an unmasked participant who is unknowingly contagious with COVID-19 places other participants at high risk of contracting COVID-19, the rights of other participants to a safe environment may be impinged by an unmasked participant. This may be particularly important in the case when other participants who would be exposed to the unmasked have medical vulnerabilities, or have family members with vulnerabilities, that place them at higher risk of adverse outcomes if they were to contract COVID-19. If one or more individuals in an event are unable to wear a mask, participants from both their own team and other teams should be given the opportunity prior to the start of competition to make a personal decision, or a decision as a team, about whether an unmasked participant would place them at unacceptable risk. If individuals or a team choose not to participate due to this risk, leagues should endeavor to make schedule and standing adjustments so that non-participating individuals or teams are not punished.

Q. Where can I get more information?

Children’s Hospital has published a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions and answers about masks for children, which are written by physicians who are experts in the health of children. This page is updated frequently, and addresses many of the questions that parents, schools, and healthcare providers may have about masks for children: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/parenting/parenting-articles/masks-for-kids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020_jac

CDPHE has also published information about masking and the relevant public health and executive orders. This contains information that applies to a broad range of settings and activities: https://covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance

Finally, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center has collected a robust list of resources related to ADA and COVID-19: https://www.rockymountainada.org/resources-covid-19-and-ada

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How is medically contraindicated determined? 

The CDC has developed an evolving list of conditions that place individuals at higher risk of severe complications of COVID-19, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. Individuals with these risk factors or who believe they may be at higher risk of severe disease should make an informed decision with their health care provider about learning and employment considerations.

 

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Would CDPHE address concerns of staff who recognize we can "control" the school environment but not the home environment if this increase in exposure to them equates to increased risk?

CDPHE fully recognizes that it is beyond reason to ask schools to control student movement beyond the school day. Limiting interactions, masking and physical distancing are everyone’s responsibility.

Cohorting is required in other settings for children, including child care, but it is not expected that the same cohorts established in schools be maintained in all other settings.

Using cohorts in schools along with a layered approach to transmission controls is one of our best strategies to slow transmission and limit the spread of COVID-19.

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Does the K-12 Education Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase have capacity caps for in-person learning?

YES: Stay at Home:

Remote learning, except for a limited number of students requiring in-person education due to specific learning needs.

NO: Safer at Home and Protect Our Neighbors:

These two phases do not have capacity caps for in-person learning. Schools should apply the guidance from these phases to determine how many students/staff may return to in-person learning. A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts.

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Who declares the phases?

Local public health agencies (LPHAs) may declare the phase for their county/area using the Stay, Safer, and Protect Complete Framework metrics. Note: The Protect Our Neighbors phase requires a request for certification to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for approval. A county may seek to qualify for Protect Our Neighbors by themselves, or voluntarily form a "region" with neighboring counties who choose to submit for a certification together. To enter Protect Our Neighbors, counties must qualify by meeting scientifically established metrics. If a county that has entered Protect Our Neighbors falls out of compliance with any one of the metrics, they have three weeks to implement their containment plan and reestablish compliance.

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Will there be updated projections from CDPHE about projected positive cases statewide and in the metro area from August through December?

CDPHE will be closely monitoring cases statewide for trends. They are already posting much of this on their website and are working on new ways to provide additional information about community spread. Modeling data is also available from the Colorado School of Public Health: https://coloradosph.cuanschutz.edu/resources/covid-19/modeling-results

 

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How long do we need to quarantine a cohort if there is a positive case or exposure within the cohort?

Quarantine is 14 days from the last exposure to a positive case.

Although the layered strategies will reduce cases of COVID-19, CDPHE expects cases and schools will need to follow the public health and disease control strategies. In the absence of these strategies, we risk widespread transmission and an impossibility of safe in-person learning.

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If one cohort needs to be quarantined because of exposure, do we also need to quarantine the cohorts of those students' siblings?

Contacts of contacts do not need to be quarantined per CDPHE and CDC guidelines.

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Our local medical facility and public health agency has told us that contact tracing dictates quarantine, and only those in "close contact" as defined by CDC would need to be quarantined. That seems contradictory to the idea that everyone in a cohort would need to be quarantined.

Classroom and cohort contacts that remain together in the same classroom for up to 7 hours a day will very likely meet the definition of a close contact case within that classroom.

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Has the guidance around close contact and contact tracing changed?

CDPHE is following the lead of their public health partners at CDC. Since the beginning of the pandemic, slight modifications to what constitutes close contact has changed, and are less inclusive now then when they knew very little about the transmission of COVID-19.

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Quarantine guidance says 2-14 days. How is the timeline determined?

Quarantine is 14 full days and has not changed since the beginning of the pandemic. The 2-14 days guideline was provided in reference to whole-school closure if there is an identified case within a school, to allow for contact tracing and quarantine of contacts. However, a school practicing cohorting may not experience a school-wide closure in the event of a case if cohorts are closely maintained and contacts of a case can be identified readily. 

 

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If a school closes due to a COVID-19 outbreak, can either K-2 or K-3 students continue in-person learning, especially if guidelines are followed and if the district is smaller in size?

No. We expect full school closures to be triggered by 5 or more cohorts or classrooms with outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools that are cohorting, or at least 5% of the school population or at least 10 unrelated students or staff test positive for COVID-19 within a 14 day period. These scenarios indicate widespread transmission within the school environment. Full school closures will protect staff, teachers and students when transmission of COVID19 is most likely to occur in a school.

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Is there guidance available for small class sizes under 15 students? Does that change any recommendations?

The recommendations remain the same.

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What is the status of talking with the teacher's union?

CDE has had a long-standing relationship with the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and continues to be in discussions with them. CDE has presented at town halls and attended a teacher union focus group in July to hear concerns and feedback. CDE also meets with the Commissioner’s Teacher’s cabinet to hear their feedback and concerns. A few of the concerns expressed was the desire for staff and students to wear masks and for the state to provide clear safety protocols to districts. The Governor’s Executive Order addressed the mask issue requiring individuals 11 and older to wear a mask/cloth face covering and CDPHE and CDE has also issued this safety guidance on health protocols. CDE will continue to collaborate with CEA’s leadership throughout the pandemic and work to support teachers across the state.

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What is the bus transportation guidance, and is there physical distancing flexibility?

  • Reduce the risk of transmission by limiting capacity of school buses, having household and classroom units sit together, and establishing more frequent and shorter trips.
  • Bus services should follow guidelines developed for public transportation, with the exception that household groups may sit closely together with appropriate distancing between household groups.
  • If physical distancing is not feasible on a bus, all students must wear cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision.
  • If physical distancing is feasible, encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, and require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students age 11 years and older, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision.

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At this point, is the entire state in the Safer At Home phase? Is any area in the Protect Your Neighbors phase?

Currently there are no counties that are certified in Protect our Neighbors (7/22/20).


Questions and Answers


Classroom Guidance 2

Grades K-5

  • Students in grades K-5 do not need to meet the 6-foot distance in classrooms or other locations.
  • Normal class sizes may occur.
  • A defined group of staff should be assigned to a dedicated cohort, but a set number of staff is not identified for flexibility to assign the amount of staff needed for a dedicated cohort.
  •  

Grades 6-8

  • Normal class sizes with increased cohorting, while observing 6-foot spacing as feasible.
  • A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Local schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood some adjustments for each school will need to occur. If 6-foot distance is not attainable, maximize spacing while layering other transmission mitigation tactics, such as masks.

Grades 9-12

  • Normal class sizes with increased cohorting, while observing 6-foot distance as feasible.
  • A firm student gathering number is not given because school classroom sizes differ between and among districts. Local schools should determine the appropriate gathering size while working towards 6-foot distance in a classroom. It is understood some adjustments for each school will need to occur. If 6-foot distance is not attainable, maximize spacing while layering other transmission mitigation tactics, such as masks.

Staff-Only Activities

  • 50% of listed space capacity while maintaining 6-foot distancing

Cohorting Guidance 4

  • If strict cohorts cannot occur, some cohorting is better than none. In circumstances where stricter cohorting is not feasible, the greatest practical degree of cohorting should be employed in conjunction with other layered risk reduction strategies.
  • Cohorts should have staggered recess periods, and movement times to specialized classrooms (e.g. science lab) should be coordinated to avoid mixing of cohorts.
  • To increase cohort feasibility, consider staggered or alternating in-person schedules (e.g. M-T/W-F, AM/PM, or alternate weeks), block scheduling, or hybrid of in-person and proctored remote learning.
  • Be prepared to pivot to full-time remote learning for a class or entire school in case of an outbreak.
  • Cohorts may be realigned during the school year to support student educational needs. Longer durations of stable cohorting and changes that coincide with school breaks or dismissals enhance the effect of cohorting.

Footnotes

2 Classroom size guidance is contingent on the availability of learning spaces appropriate to accommodate students and teachers with appropriate physical distancing. Schools may consider using alternative learning spaces (e.g. outdoors, gymnasiums, multipurpose rooms, etc) to maximize social distancing.

4 Cohorts describe stable groups with fixed membership. For a classroom setting, cohorting is achieved by maintaining the same group of students together throughout the day across many weeks. While students may be members of more than one cohort, each additional cohort greatly increases the number of individuals who may be exposed to a case of COVID-19. Cohorting facilitates disease control by minimizing the number of contacts each individual is exposed to. This, in turn, limits the scope of dismissal and closure activities in the event of a detected case of COVID-19 or other disease.

Athletic, extracurricular and cocurricular activities will vary by phase, and will be addressed in separate guidance from CDPHE.

Stay, Safer, and Protect Complete Framework (PDF) - specific metrics


Introduction

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Introduction

Objective

Provide P-12 districts and schools with considerations and guidance for the 2020-21 school year that are based on health and safety protocols and advance quality education, equity, and opportunity for every Colorado student.


Beginning to Plan for 2020-2021

Overview

As local education providers prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year in August, a variety of scenarios may need to be considered during these exceptional times. As has been the case since the pandemic began in March, the situation continues to evolve. This website will be updated as we gather feedback and receive new health information, as it becomes available.

We recognize that this is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we, as a large scale education community, not known exactly what to plan for in terms of the coming school year. As leaders, you are in the challenging position of trying to make sense of the unknown, making the best decisions about prioritizing limited resources and providing reassurance and direction for your staff, students and communities.

Please accept our appreciation for all that you have already done for our state.

We also recognize that there are risks or trade-offs to the different opening scenarios. For example, remote learning scenarios may dramatically impact a child’s ability to engage in learning and feel connected to the school community. On the other hand, we must be cognizant of the current health situation for in-person learning options. In this unprecedented time, parents will have to decide what learning environment they are comfortable with as they work with their local schools and districts on the choices and options available.

We know that Colorado is filled with amazing creativity, innovation and passion for education. Working together, we will figure out how to serve our students and families in 2020-21.

Reopening schools will involve considerations around health and safety, continuity of learning, conditions for learning, planning and communications and policy and funding.

Timeline

We will continue to update the Toolkit information with new tools throughout the summer and fall. Latest Updates to the Toolkit may be found here

Ongoing feedback opportunities:

CDE will host a number of opportunities for you to provide feedback and input into this guidance:

  • Recorded CDE webinars and slide decks about this Toolkit  are available here.
  • Targeted written feedback from partner organizations and stakeholders is available.
  • Provide targeted feedback sessions (45 minutes via Teams Meets) for districts/organizations that request it. Please email your field services staff to arrange a session.
  • An Advisory Committee with multiple stakeholders has formed to provide feedback on the Planning the 2020-21 School Year: Framework and Toolkit for School and District leaders. Advisory Committee recorded meetings and notes are available here.

Planning in Uncertain Times

Overview

  • Planning for restarting the school year may seem like a moving target given the emerging epidemiological data and public health guidelines. CDE recommends establishing contingency plans and leaving many options open, including remote learning and small-group in-person learning.
  • Districts and schools will need to follow any applicable Colorado Executive Orders or Public Health Orders that are in place at the beginning of the school year and any local health requirements existing in local communities.
  • As the epidemiological data changes over time, it is important to plan for a variety of fall learning approaches. We are hopeful that there will be enough data to have more flexible approaches by communities next school year using the Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase, so please keep that in mind as you read the requirements and guidance.

Decisions about whether in-person instruction is suspended may be made in a variety of ways:

  1. A statewide Executive Order or Public Health Order may suspend in-person instruction (as was the case in the spring of 2020). If an Executive Order or Public Health Order is not in place, then move to #2 below.
  2. Local public health departments may issue a local health order suspending in-person instruction at a site or for an entire district. If a local health order is not in place, then move to #3 below.
  3. A school district, in collaboration with the local health department, may decide to suspend in-person instruction due to the number of cases in the school or community.

Remote, in-person, and physically distanced approaches, as well as rolling starts and stops to in-person learning are provided for district and school considerations as they design their fall opening plans.

  • It may be helpful to start with what we know, what we don’t yet know, and what our communities need from our schools, as we begin our planning.

What We Know:

  • Likely, physical distancing will continue through fall. Pending public health guidelines, instruction will need to be flexible. There may be some on/off remote learning, staggered schedules, health screenings, smaller groups at schools with some students who are more prepared to work from home at home.
  • Likely, 2020-21 will have disruptions where some remote learning will need to be used. CDE, with district feedback, will has developed guidance on what counts as remote learning days.
  • CDPHE has provided the Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase guidance to provide local public health agencies more flexibility for their communities.
  • Global COVID-19 evidence suggests that younger children play a smaller role in onward transmission of COVID-19. The risk of transmission between young children and from young children to adults is lower, than the risk of transmission between or from older children and adults. The risk to children is likely lower than that of yearly influenza, accounting for both primary disease and Multisystem Inflammatory Disease in Children (MIS-C). This is why preschools and elementary schools should have different guidelines than secondary schools.
  • The risk of transmission between children and from children to adults is low, and the risk of transmission to adults is greater from other adults with either symptomatic or asymptomatic infection. Therefore, the most important limit to classroom size for adults is the number of adults required to be in close proximity.
  • Given the limited role young children likely play in transmission, there likely is minimal benefit relative to the great difficulty of  physical distancing young children within a class to prevent COVID-19 spread. (American Academy of Pediatrics) Moreover, physical distancing has the potential to negatively impact appropriate child development in this age group. Therefore, focus should be placed on other risk mitigation strategies that better complement the learning and socialization goals of children up through 5th grade. In secondary schools there is likely a greater impact of physical distancing on risk reduction of COVID-19. 
  • Cohorting significantly reduces the number of students and staff who will need to be excluded in the event of a case of COVID-19 in a school by limiting the number of close contacts of each individual (all of whom will need to be quarantined up to 14 days if they have close contact with a case). Considerations about the number of close contacts should be included in decisions about transportation and activities as well.
  • For COVID-19, CDPHE has defined a close contact.
  • Protection efforts applied collectively (for example social distancing AND masking AND cohorting) will provide stronger protection than any one effort in isolation as it will reduce the transmission of disease and minimize the disruption to in-person learning.
  • Pending public health guidelines, small-group, in-person instruction may be an option.
  • CDPHE has provided a COVID-19 General Questions and Answers
    • What is a coronavirus, and what is COVID-19?
      • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Not all coronaviruses are COVID-19.
      • A novel (or new) coronavirus is a strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans.
      • Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people, such as has been seen with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses have caused outbreaks internationally and have been known to cause severe illness. Scientists think this is what happened with COVID-19.
      • COVID-19 now is spreading from person to person in many countries and states, including Colorado.
    • How is COVID-19 spread?
      • COVID-19 spreads from person to person and is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.
      • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
      • For these reasons, people at increased risk of infection are:
      • People who have been to areas where widespread community transmission is occurring.
      • People who had direct close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

What We Don’t Know:

  • The exact timing of when a school or district will be able to have in-person, modified in-person, or remote learning during the school year. CDPHE has provided the Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase guidance to provide local public health agencies more flexibility for their communities.
  • The specific public health requirements that will be in place throughout fall, winter, and spring.
  • The impact of the reduction in revenue for the state on our education budget.

What We Need Schools to Provide:

While the needs in each community are different, we believe the overarching needs in our state are:

  • Learning (Tier 1, 2 and 3)
  • Food
  • Connection
  • Child care (at least for prek-6)

Questions to Ask When Considering a Policy / Practice Change:

  • Will this change encourage social distancing (students farther away from each other?)
  • Will this discourage cohort mixing? (students remaining in their same cohort for lunch, recess, classes, and other activities?)
  • Will this change improve hygiene practices?


Fall School Scenarios

Overview

The following are the most likely scenarios for the 2020-21 school year, based on the current science and data we have in May 2020. This toolkit will provide guidance and considerations for these different scenarios.

Remote Learning Approach

In-person Learning Approach


Physically Distanced Approach

  • Small, in-person learning with remote learning rotations/staggered ideas

Rolling starts and stops to in-person learning

  • Infrastructure to move between in-person, or modified in-person, and remote learning


Health and Safety

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Health and Safety

Overview

As districts and schools design their fall opening plans, CDE in cooperation with CDPHE offers the following health and safety protocols for ways in which schools can help protect students, teachers, administrators and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.

To the extent possible, districts and schools are encouraged to work with their local county health department on how to implement the protocols while considering the feasibility of the fall opening plans and meeting the unique needs of their local community.

The Health and Safety section provides guidance on opening schools, addressing a COVID-19 case in a school and slowing the spread of diseases while protecting vulnerable students and educators.



School Decision Tree

Note:

The Health and Safety section of the framework is provided by CDC and CDPHE.


School Decision Tree for Opening

Overview

The purpose of this tool is to assist administrators in making (re)opening decisions regarding P-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.

  • CDC Preparing K-12 School Administrators for a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020. Direct link here.

Should you consider opening?

  • Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
  • Is the school ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
  • Are you able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?
Any no: do not open. All yes: proceed to next question.

Are recommended health and safety actions in place?

Any no: meet safeguards first. All yes: proceed to next question.

Is ongoing monitoring in place?

  • Develop and implement procedures to check for signs and symptoms of students and employees daily upon arrival, as feasible
  • Encourage anyone who is sick to stay home
  • Plan for if students or employees get sick
  • Regularly communicate and monitor developments with local authorities, employees, and families regarding cases, exposures, and updates to policies and procedures
  • Monitor student and employee absences and have flexible leave policies and practices
  • Be ready to consult with the local health authorities if there are cases in the facility or an increase in cases in the local area
Any no: meet safeguards first. All yes: open and monitor.


School Decision Tree for COVID-19 Cases

Overview

The purpose of the School Decision Tree below is to assist administrators in knowing what potential steps to take for cleaning and notifications regarding P-12 schools with confirmed COVID-19 cases. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.


ALL Schools Regardless of Community Spread. Confirmed person with COVID-19 in building. Assess Risk. Short (potential 2-5 day) building dismissal to clean/disinfect/ contact trace in consultation with local health officials
No Community Spread, Prepare, Teach and reinforce healthy hygiene, Develop information sharing system, Intensify cleaning and disinfection, Monitor for absenteeism, Assess group gatherings and events, consider postponing non-critical gatherings and events, Require sick students and staff to stay home, Establish procedures for someone becoming sick at school  Monitor changes in community spread.
Community spread. Minimal to Moderate: Coordinate with local health officials, Implement multiple social distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms, and movement through the building, Consider ways to accommodate needs of children and families at high risk. Substantial: Coordinate with local health officials, Implement multiple social distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms and movement through the building WITH EXTENDED SCHOOL DISMISSALS, Consider how to accommodate needs of at-risk children
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Districts and schools may also connect to CDPHE for COVID-19 related issues and concerns.

If Executive Orders and Public Health Orders allow schools to reopen to versions of in-person learning in the fall, districts and schools should consult with their local county health department to share their plans.

Schools should be prepared for COVID-19 outbreaks in their local communities and for individual exposure events to occur in their facilities, regardless of the level of community transmission.

If there is a case in your school:

Then CDPHE or the local health department will notify the school. If the school becomes aware of a case before it is contacted by the CDPHE or the local health department, the school should immediately notify local health officials. These officials will help administrators determine a course of action for their schools.

The purpose of a closure is twofold:

  1. To provide opportunity for environmental cleaning and disinfection
  2. To provide opportunity to coordinate the public health response with respect to case investigation, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, etc.

 

Cases and Outbreak Guidance - PHO 20-38 (effective May 2, 2021, and expires may 15, 2021)

  • Prepare to shift to remote learning (2 - 14 days) when school closures or cohort dismissals occur in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case among students or employees.

  • CDPHE has provided Cases and outbreaks in childcare and schools guidance

  • Educational Institutions that Provide Critical Services to Students and the General Public:

    • Preschool through 12th grade institutions are required to work with state and local public health officials and follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine and shifting to remote learning.

Contact Tracing

Close contacts are determined based on 48 hours before onset of symptoms for symptomatic positive and suspect cases. For asymptomatic positives, it's determined based on 48 hours before the test was conducted.   

 You can find the "definition" of a close contact here:

Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure

Cases and Outbreak Guidance

 

 

School Level COVID-19 Tracking

  • Some schools and districts are tracking COVID-19 cases and sharing the information with their communities through their school or district website.  We are thankful to the American Academy for sharing their template as an example --  COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard Template
 

Put communication systems in place for:

  • Consistent with applicable law and privacy policies, having staff and families self-report to the school if they or their student have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19  and other applicable federal and state laws and regulations relating to privacy and confidentiality, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  FERPA specific guidance for school officials concerning the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records to outside entities when addressing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is addressed in the document linked here.
    • Notifying staff, families, and the public of school closures and any restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (i.e., limited hours of operation).
    • Communicating with staff and families if there is an exposure at school.
    • See Communications section within Planning and Communication framework for sample templates in mid to late July.
  • Ensure signs and messaging are provided in alternative formats to successfully communicate information to individuals whose primary language is not English, and to individuals with hearing or vision impairment.

Protocols for Protecting the Health of Students and Educators

Note:

In cooperation with the CDPHE and CDC, the protocols below are designed to protect the health of students and educators. Several of the protocols are requirements through Executive Order and Public Health Order. We acknowledge that all of these guidelines may not be met with 100% consistency at all times. We encourage schools and districts to follow these guidelines to the best of their abilities and whenever feasible.



District / School Coordinators and Local County Health Department

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Identify district/school coordinator(s) responsible for addressing COVID-19 Health and Safety Needs
    • Districts/Schools are encouraged to partner with their local county health department
      • Discuss your fall plans with the local county health department for feedback, and seek their guidance on how to address a COVID-19 case in a school(s).
      • Before launching the 2020-21 school year, consult with your local county health department on the latest public health orders.
      • Throughout the school year, as the number of cases in your community changes, it will be important to be in touch with your local county health department, as you may need to make decisions around suspending in-person instruction.

Executive Orders and Public Health Orders

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data. 

 

  • Executive Order D 2021 095 Mask Order - Expires 30 days from May 2, 2021

  • PHO 20-38 - Effective May 2, 2021 and expires May 15, 2021, unless extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing. 

  •  

    • New:  Section III.C.1: authorizing face coverings to be removed in a school classroom setting for the purpose of playing a musical instrument that cannot otherwise be played while wearing a face covering
    • Appendix 1, Section 13: Clarifies that P-12 educational institutions and child care centers must follow outbreak guidance.

CDPHE All Public Health Orders and Executive Orders

Note: P-12 public school and private schools for the purpose of providing meals, housing, facilitating or providing materials for distance learning, and providing in person learning or other essential services to students as determined by the school or school district in consultation with the local public health agency. Such institutions are required to work with state and local public health officials and follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine and shifting to remote learning.


Safety Protocols

Jump to a section:


Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.

Gatherings Requirements

  • Please refer to the Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase for gathering size based on phase.
  • Class sizes and cohorting guidance will vary with phase and grade level (see below).
  • Cohorts are encouraged to reduce contact with others.
  • Cohorts reduce the number of exposed students/staff from a confirmed COVID-19 case and will result in fewer students/staff required to quarantine.
  • Special service providers should not be included in the teacher-to-classroom ratios. These providers should minimize contact with non-client students and other adults in classrooms.
  • Cohorting: the practice of keeping the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day. Ideally, changes in cohorts are timed to align with school semesters or trimesters after lengthy breaks, but even shorter blocks of time, such as two weeks, can be effective. Cohorting helps limit the number of contacts each individual has. As a result, if quarantines or dismissals are needed, they may affect fewer people, resulting in fewer disruptions to in-person learning. Students may be in multiple cohorts (for example, bus ride to school, after-school sports, classroom). 

Continuum of Screening Requirements

Screening for Symptoms of COVID-19

Schools should encourage parents to screen children for symptoms of COVID-19 before arrival to the school each day. Parents/guardians should check for new symptoms or a change in usual symptoms (https://covid19.colorado.gov/cases-and-outbreaks-child-care-schools#AtHome). A student should not be kept home for usual symptoms that they experience due to a chronic condition unless the symptoms are worse than usual. 

Daily screening of all students at school (including temperature checks) is discouraged by both CDC and CDPHE because it can create congestion or bottlenecks at screening locations where transmission of COVID-19 may be more likely. Schools may be less familiar with a child’s usual symptoms of a chronic condition than parents. Screening can divert time and resources away from learning. Additionally, if students are routinely screened at school rather than at home, schools will face challenges in isolating symptomatic students and transporting symptomatic students home, especially if they traveled via bus.

 
  • Effective May 2, 2021 and expires May 15, 2021,  PHO 20-38Disease mitigation practices. Employers and sole proprietors are strongly encouraged to follow the best practices for disease mitigation found in CDPHE Guidance. 

  • Below are a few steps for screening
    • Employees and students  will undergo home temperature and symptom screening or self-screening.
    • Employees and students  unable to complete screening prior to arrival will undergo screening on site. Maximize  privacy and minimize exposure to others during onsite screenings.
    • Screen employees, students and essential visitors, based on public health recommendations, safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.
    • Consider using a professional development day for staff to practice the screening protocols with each other before applying to students. with a phased approach.
    • Any screening policy should take into account students with disabilities and accommodations that may be needed in the screening process for those students.
    • It is not required to re-screen staff, students, visitors if they leave and request to return to the building the same day.
    • Implement protocols for conducting, monitoring, and tracking screenings

Minimize Transmission Risk: 

 

Masks/Face Coverings Guidance

  • Executive Order D 2021 079 Mask Order , expires 30 days from April 3, 2021, protects Colorado workers and communities by requiring workers in critical businesses and critical government functions to wear a non-medical mask covering their nose and mouth while at work and while serving the public. Ensure educators and staff wear medical or non-medical cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while working,  whenever possible and except where doing so would inhibit that individual’s health, including during in-person instruction.

  • Added a new Paragraph S. to the end of Section II. that states the following: CDPHE, in consultation with the appropriate Local Public Health Administration, may grant waivers for certain indoor activities that take place for a limited time period if such activities cannot practically or safely be performed while wearing a mask.

Masks in Schools and Childcare Settings

 "At school" section of the CDPHE mask guidance (https://covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance)

Universal masking should be practiced by all who can wear a mask safely, including children as young as 3 years old. Although the state mask mandate only legally requires masks for students 11 years of age and older, mask wearing should be standard practice for children between 3-11 years when in school or childcare. Because it is especially difficult for young children to maintain physical distancing at all times, masks provide a necessary added layer of protection. 

With few exceptions, children age 3 and older can wear masks safely. Exceptions include

  • Children under 3 years old.
  • Children with special needs who would be unable to take off a mask in an emergency.
  • Children with sensory sensitivity, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who remain unable to wear a mask after a period of gradual adjustment.

Masks should be worn all times when indoors. Masks may be removed during the following activities:

  • When eating. Assure adequate spacing and ventilation during meal times. 
  • While napping.
  • When actively playing a wind or brass instrument. See additional guidance on performing artsPHO 20-36 (expires 30 days from April 4, 2021)

Masks should be strongly encouraged:

  • During outdoor recess, particularly if children are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals.
  • While engaging in outdoor sports.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has a helpful Q&A page on masking for children.

Families may need to experiment with different mask designs to find one that works well. Younger children should be encouraged to wear ear-loop style masks to avoid the risk of the mask becoming caught around the neck and posing a strangulation hazard. 

Children who are just beginning to wear masks should be supported as they learn to wear masks appropriately, with understanding that tolerance and technique will improve with time. Institutions should partner with families to support children as they learn how to put masks on, how to keep them in place properly, and how to take them off independently. Children should not be excluded from in-person instruction or childcare as they are learning to wear a mask

 

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Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Overall Guidance

  • Testing at Home Program for Schools
  • While schools play a role in identifying students, faculty, and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have had recent known or potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, school staff, including school nurses, are not expected to directly administer SARS-CoV-2 tests. In some circumstances, school-based healthcare providers, within a school-based health center, may conduct SARS-CoV-2 testing. Not every school-based healthcare provider will have the resources or training to conduct testing, and accordingly, should not feel compelled to do so; these providers can help link students and their families and staff to other opportunities for testing in the community (Source CDC).
  • Find a community testing site near you: https://search.211colorado.org/search?terms=COVID-19%20Testing&page=1&location=Colorado&service_area=colorado

Prepare for Increased Cleaning and Hygiene Protocols

  • Invest in tools and equipment: non-latex gloves, non-touch thermometers, masks, gowns, eye protection, tissues, no-touch trash cans, soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).

Masks/Face Coverings Guidance

  • Preschool through grade 12 schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers and services, and indoor children’s camps
  • Exemptions are listed in  PHO D2021 O79
  • Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings.
  • Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to staff, students, and students' families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
  • Masks for Kids: What You Need to Know About Face Coverings
  • For students who are unable to wear a mask, it will be helpful to collaborate with pediatricians, families, and schools to develop alternative plans.
  • ESSER and CRF funds can be used to provide masks or face coverings for all students and staff to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Students who rely on their school for a mask might face social stigma if the school-provided masks are easily identifiable (e.g., disposable blue masks). A possible solution might be to hold a mask donation drive or order school themed masks for all students.

Masks in Schools and Childcare Settings:

Universal masking should be practiced by all who can wear a mask safely, including children as young as 3 years old. Although the state mask mandate only legally requires masks for students 11 years of age and older, mask wearing should be standard practice for children between 3-11 years when in school or childcare. Because it is especially difficult for young children to maintain physical distancing at all times, masks provide a necessary added layer of protection. 

With few exceptions, children age 3 and older can wear masks safely. Exceptions include

  • Children under 3 years old.

  • Children with special needs who would be unable to take off a mask in an emergency.

  • Children with sensory sensitivity, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who remain unable to wear a mask after a period of gradual adjustment.

Masks should be worn all times when indoors. Masks may be removed during the following activities:

  • When eating. Assure adequate spacing and ventilation during meal times. 

  • While napping.

  • When actively playing a wind or brass instrument. See additional guidance on performing arts -- PHO 20-38 (effective May 2, 2021, and will expire May 15, 2021)

    • Face coverings may be removed in a school classroom setting for the limited purpose of playing an instrument that cannot otherwise be played while wearing a face covering.

For questions and answers about masks in schools and elsewhere, please visit covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance.

Masks should be strongly encouraged:

  • During outdoor recess, particularly if children are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals.

  • While engaging in outdoor sports.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has a helpful Q&A page on masking for children.

Families may need to experiment with different mask designs to find one that works well. Younger children should be encouraged to wear ear-loop style masks to avoid the risk of the mask becoming caught around the neck and posing a strangulation hazard. 

Children who are just beginning to wear masks should be supported as they learn to wear masks appropriately, with understanding that tolerance and technique will improve with time. Institutions should partner with families to support children as they learn how to put masks on, how to keep them in place properly, and how to take them off independently. Children should not be excluded from in-person instruction or childcare as they are learning to wear a mask.

 

Plexiglass Guidance

  • ​Plexiglass is considered an additional protective barrier, but CDPHE does not recommend it as an alternative to masks/cloth face coverings in most situations.
  • Options for students who are deaf or hard of hearing: Cloth masks may not always be the best viable option when teaching or supporting students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Face shields or plexiglass barriers may be used as a temporary alternative, if additional precautions are taken, including physical distancing when feasible and strict cohorting.
  • We recognize that students may find it difficult to wear a mask/cloth face covering at all times, especially younger students. With that in mind, the plexiglass protective barrier is an additional barrier schools/districts may consider. However, it is not an alternative to masks/cloth face coverings. Students age 3-10 are encouraged  and students age 11 and older are required to wear a mask/cloth face covering over the nose and mouth, unless the student has a health or education reason for not wearing a mask. Those with trouble breathing, or those unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask/cloth face covering.

Proper Hygiene Guidance

  • Educate and invest in proper hygiene and reinforce washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff.
  • Follow hand washing recommendations. Consider the need for additional hand soap from increased hand washing.
  • Consider setting up temporary hand washing stations outside the school building.
  • Follow cough/sneeze protocol.
  • When teaching students school routines at the beginning of the school year, include routines for washing hands and keeping shared spaces clean.
  • Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., school entrances, restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs (such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a cloth face covering.
  • Broadcast regular announcements on reducing the spread of COVID-19 on PA systems.
  • Include messages (for example, videos) about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 when communicating with staff and families (such as on school websites, in emails, and on school social media accounts).
  • Find free CDC print and digital resources on CDC's communications resources main page.
    • Educate and invest in proper hygiene and reinforce washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff.
      • When teaching students school routines at the beginning of the school year, include routines for washing hands and keeping shared spaces clean.
      • Follow cough/sneeze protocols.
      • Follow hand washing recommendations. Consider the need for additional hand soap from increased hand washing.
  • Ensure in-school signage around COVID-19 prevention practices are posted either non-verbally (i.e. graphics) or in all the languages represented in the school district.
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety or health risk (e.g., allowing pollens in or exacerbating asthma symptoms) to children using the facility.

Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing Guidance

Ventilation Guidance

COVID-19 Materials Developed for Tribal Use

  • Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health is producing materials related to COVID-19 for tribes to distribute in partnership with Indian Health Service and with support from the Walmart Foundation.

  • Tribal Guidance

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

Overall Considerations

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Encourage Safe Physical Distancing During Activities and Limit Sharing

Overview

In general, it is important to reinforce both social distancing (encouraging space between students) and cohort limiting (ensuring that the same group of students remain together). Both of these practices are important steps to take to further reduce the spread of COVID-19. The information below focuses on frequently accessed areas of a school campus by students, educators, and families. This guidance may change over time as the epidemiological data changes. Please check back for updates.

We acknowledge that all of these guidelines may not be met with 100% consistency at all times. We encourage schools and districts to follow these guidelines to the best of their abilities and whenever feasible.



Bus and Suburban Transportation

For students who get to school on a bus or through other district provided transportation, processes and protocols need to be established to ensure the health and safety through this portion of a student's day:

If screening is part of a school's disease control strategy (as is recommended here (PDF)), using the Continuum of Screening graphic above, buses should provide clearly visible signage to communicate the symptoms students should not have if travelling on a bus.

  • Screening at bus stops is not recommended for several reasons. Notably, this will extend the bus stop time, thus causing issues with other vehicles, which may lead to increased number of stop arm violations and the associated safety concerns. Additionally, if a child is screened and found to have symptoms, there may not be a safe course of action available at a bus stop. The child cannot be effectively isolated from other students on the bus. If the child’s parent is not present at the bus stop, the child cannot safely be sent home. Instead screening at home is recommended, and students unable to complete screening prior to arrival at school will undergo screening at the school site.
Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
 
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Given the extraordinary circumstances associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC has recommended that buses provide clearly visible signage to communicate the symptoms students should not have if traveling on a bus.  These are recommendations, not requirements.  If indeed a school district, charter school, or service provider determines that they wish to provide this signage 1 CCR 301-25 (PDF), rule 26.08 outlines the requirements that must be met.  Additionally, CDE has issued guidance with pre-approval for COVID-related signage as long as it is in the specified locations and meets all other requirements of the rule to this rule. This guidance is located at: http://www.cde.state.co.us/safeschools/policyguidancefromcde#transportation
  • PRE-APPROVAL OF COVID-19 SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION SIGNAGE
  • Assign seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
  •  If it is not feasible to physically distance on a bus, all students must wear cloth face coverings, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision.
  • If physical distancing is feasible, encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, and require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students age 11 years and older, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a face covering.
  • Additional bus transit operator protections.
  • Executive Order D 2020-067 I. - Drivers (staff) wear a mask/face covering.
  • Request passengers avoid sitting within 6 feet of the bus driver.
  • Consider assigned seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Load the bus from the back forward to allow the greatest distance from the driver for the longest period of time.
  • Avoid touching surfaces often touched by bus passengers.
  • Use gloves if required to touch surfaces contaminated by body fluids.
  • Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including surfaces in the driver cockpit commonly touched by the operator.
  • Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Key times to clean hands in general include:
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • After using the toilet
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Additional times to clean hands on the job include:
    • Before and after work shifts
    • Before and after work breaks
    • After touching frequently touched surfaces, such as fareboxes and handrails
    • After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • As feasible, increase ventilation and times between groups.
  • Checklist to clean rails, seats, windows, seat belts, and mop floor after every route. The CDC recommends that school buses be cleaned and disinfected according to their guidance for other bus and transit operators.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Plan for additional routes, or divide up existing routes into smaller/shorter routes.
  • Consider a communication plan to students and families that includes physical distancing while at bus stops.
  • CDPHE is in the process of finalizing bus screening protocols, including parent/guardians certifying that their children are not exhibiting signs of COVID-19.
  • Consider increased frequency of cleaning for buses with medically fragile or high needs special education children and their seating equipment.
  • If a district needs to cut back or remove bus services, think about ways to support families who do not have access to alternative transportation or conflicts with work schedules.
  • ESSER and CRF funds can be used to provide personal protective equipment for bus drivers as well as students, if needed, in addition to the masks being provided by the governor.

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Cafeteria/Food Service Areas

With many students in and out of the lunch room throughout the day, and students historically sitting very close to each other eating and talking, adjustments will need to be made.

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • Per 6 CCR 1010-2, sanitize cookware, plates, cups, cutlery and food preparation, service regularly and plan for distribution that minimizes handling.
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Limit unnecessary staff and visitors in food service areas.
  • Sanitize cookware, plates, cups, cutlery and food preparation, service regularly and plan for distribution that minimizes handling.
  • Sanitize table surfaces between eating shifts.
  • Grid off sections for common spaces and lunch areas to help students separate.
  • Remove self-service, including salad bars, buffet lines, and family style service.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider using disposable/compostable plates, cups, cutlery, condiment packets, etc.
  • Consider closing cafeterias, if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use.
  • Consider providing lunch inside classrooms instead of the cafeteria.

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Classrooms

Students are in classrooms for extended periods of time with each other, sharing the same air and smaller spaces. To minimize the spread of illness, the following adjustments may be helpful.

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • Effective May 2, 2021,  PHO 20-38 Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public and private schools are required to work with state and local public health officials and follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine and shifting to remote learning. Maintain 6 feet of distance between students and staff, to the extent possible.

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Limit the number of people in a classroom at a time as well as the number of people in and out of the space during the day.
  • Cohort: keep the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day. Ideally, changes in cohorts are timed to align with school semesters or trimesters after lengthy breaks, but even shorter blocks of time, such as two weeks, can be effective. Cohorting helps limit the number of contacts each individual has. As a result, if quarantines or dismissals are needed, they may affect fewer people, resulting in fewer disruptions to in-person learning. Students may be in multiple cohorts (for example, bus ride to school, after-school sports, classroom). 
  • Increase airflow in the classroom as much as possible.
  • Keep each child's belongings separated from others' and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
  • Provide adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (art supplies, equipment, etc) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
  • Use signage and markings to establish safe distancing.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • "Normal" classroom routines, such as morning meetings, small groups or pair work may need to be adjusted to ensure physical distancing between students, as feasible.
  • Consider assigned seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Consider arranging desks to face the same direction, or sit students on one side of the table, spaced apart.
  • Consider adding temporary hand washing stations to classrooms or areas where sinks are not available.
  • Remind students not to pass phones to each other, as this is a way to spread illness, and make sure they frequently disinfect their phones.
  • Schools in smaller buildings may find it difficult to maintain physical distancing. If possible, consider alternative locations for classrooms in the community.
  • Outdoor learning is a great option, whenever possible.

Temporary handsink set up. Fresh water in a jug on a table with a bucket underneath for grey water. Paper towels and hand soap next to the water on the table. A waste basket under the table for waste.

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Drop Off/Pick Up, Late Drop-Off

Arrival and departure are times when traditionally a large number of students and their caregivers are gathered in close proximity to each other. During this time, different protocols need to be put into place to diminish the risks of spreading illness and screen for any potentially contagious individuals.

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations or put in place other protocols to safely distance parents as much as possible and diminish the number of students trying to enter a building at the same time.

  • Students unable to complete screening prior to arrival will undergo screening on site. Maximize privacy and minimize exposure to others during onsite screenings.

  • Schools may conduct additional symptom evaluation for students and staff who were unable to complete screening before arrival to school, appear ill, or complain of symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Consider establishing drop off lines in relation to screening stations.
    • Station 1 - remain in car for symptom screening
    • Station 2 - remain in car for temperature screening
  • Consider separate screener stations for students on buses, walkers/bikers and staff.
  • Use signage and markings to establish safe distancing. 
  • Some students may be dropped off at campus long prior to their scheduled class start time. Consider how to accommodate them safely including supervision of an outdoor space.
  • Return

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Emergency Drills

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.

General

Fire Drill Requirements

  • The first drill of the school year must be conducted within 10-days of the beginning of classes. In order to ensure that all students, teachers, and staff are familiarized with the updated procedures in the COVID-19 environment, all class cohort rotations must conduct a drill within this timeframe.
  • Must conduct at least one physical evacuation drill each month. If a drill is not conducted on a particular class cohort rotation for the month, an in-service or other training shall be provided to students, teachers, and staff associated with that rotation to ensure all are being refreshed on drill process and procedure each month. No class cohort rotation shall go more than 60-days without participating in a physical evacuation drill.
  • Participation must include all occupants.
  • Shall be conducted at unexpected times and during varying conditions.
  • If the school has a fire alarm system, the drill must be initiated by activation of the fire alarm system.
  • False alarms of the fire alarm system may not be substituted for a required evacuation drill.

Bus Evacuation Drill Requirements

  • Per 1 CCR 301-26, rule 18.02, emergency evacuation instructions prior to departure for students on school related events is required.
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Overall Guidance

  • Scheduling additional time to conduct each drill.
  • Practicing evacuation in a slower, more methodical process, while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
  • Staging wash/sanitizing stations at safe locations and directing students to wash/sanitize hands prior to returning to rooms. Ensure social distancing measures so students do not gather around stations.
  • Recording (with video) drills conducted by staff and emergency services using limited number of actors and utilizing video to educate students in procedures.
  • Explaining procedures to students and staff with visual aids.

Fire Drills

  • Sequencing the release of classrooms in an effort to reduce the number of individuals evacuating at any given time. This may be accomplished through the utilization of available means of communication, evacuation procedures developed in collaboration with the Fire Code Official, or a combination of both.
  • Closely monitoring more points along evacuation routes to limit congestion.
  • Pointing out common staging areas for emergency response vehicles and explaining possible avenues of approach.
  • Expanding rally points to accommodate distancing and staging handwash/sanitizing stations. Directing students to wash/sanitize hands prior to returning to rooms.
  • Providing in-services or videos that outline the updated procedures and changes from pre-COVID-19 response as a supplement to the physical evacuation drills.
  • Working with the Fire Code Official, identify other potential mechanisms to avoid congestion and “crossing paths.”

Active Shooter/Dangerous Intruder Lockdown Drills

  • Increasing number of table-top exercises with staff to ensure procedures are understood.
  • Conducting more frequent small drills with smaller groups of students/staff.
  • Practicing procedures to move small groups to safe locations (if applicable) while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.

Earthquake Drills

  • Walking through evacuation procedure with small groups. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.

Tornado Drills

  • Explaining procedures during local siren tests.
  • Clearly announcing the drill and practicing it in a slower, methodical process while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
  • Moving students to the shelter location one classroom or group at a time.
  • Identifying “one-way” avenues or hallways to reduce congestion and “crossing paths.”
  • Applying clear signage to identify shelter locations and pointing out signage on a regular basis.

Bus Evacuation Drills

  • Practicing evacuations with a handful of passengers and rotating participants.
  • Conducting procedures in a secure parking lot to ensure room for physical distancing.
  • Providing sanitizing products for passengers and direct youth to sanitize hands during pre-determined points of the procedures.
  • Consideration should be given to conducting front door evacuation drills and also providing instruction for evacuations conducted via all remaining emergency exits. 

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

Overall Considerations

  • Additional/Other Drills
    • A number of other drills may be performed and can be practiced in the COVID-19 environment with the same considerations. Simply allowing students to exercise social distancing during a drill is acceptable as long as they understand the need to react with urgency in an actual emergency, thus requiring extensive vocal reinforcement during any exercise. Working with local emergency services is encouraged to provide insight from practitioners

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Extracurricular Activities, Athletics, and Physical Education

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • School Sponsored Sports  PHO 20-38- Effective May 2, 2021, and expires May 15, 2021.

    • Schools that are entirely remote learning due to ongoing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks shall not have in-person extracurricular activities.

  • High School Sports that do not follow the personal recreation guidance in Appendix J, and are operating under the auspices of the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), may resume practices and games after CHSAA submits plans to CDPHE that detail their disease prevention and mitigation strategies and receives approval.
  • CDPHE Organized Sports Guidance

  • Colorado High School Activities Association season B guidelines FAQ

  • Eliminating or Greatly Restricting Extracurricular Activities:

    • While extracurricular activities have value for participants, they are not integral to the core educational mission of schools, and should not be prioritized at the expense of in-person learning, the health of school community members, and transmission of COVID-19 in the wider Colorado community.

    • Schools should recognize the additional risk posed by extracurricular activities, whether these activities are directly affiliated with schools or not. Even if conducted with optimal risk reduction measures in place, extracurricular activities present another venue in which COVID-19 transmission may occur. Further, schools may have less control of risk reduction measures in these activities. Large outbreaks associated with sports teams have resulted in the suspension of in-person learning for entire school districts in Colorado.

Physical Education

Physical Education during COVID-19

Physical Education supports the well-being of students, and the school community. These factors contribute to the physical, mental, and emotional safety of our children. This information is intended to support schools and districts as they make local decisions in regard to physical education in response to COVID-19. Districts may choose to share their plans with their local public health agency or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for feedback.  

Because no single tactic can completely eliminate the risk of disease transmission, those listed below are intended to work together.  The contexts of physical education are specific to the local school/district community and grade level, requiring that school leaders develop a  plan specific to their local circumstance.  

In-Person Learning

Instructional Space

  • Select an available location where there is enough space for physical distancing guidelines of 6+ feet apart
  • Ideally, select an outdoor location for instruction if available and conditions (e.g., safety, weather, air quality, etc.) allow and avoid the use of playground equipment, benches, or other permanent structures.
  • If indoors, consider using fans in combination with opening windows and doors when indoors to increase ventilation. See additional: Ventilation and HVAC System Guidance 
  • Do not use locker rooms or require students to change clothes for physical education.

Physical Distancing 

  • Whether indoor or outdoor, students and staff should maintain physical distancing of at least 6+ feet apart.
  • If the instructional space does not accommodate for physical distancing with a full class, the number of students should be appropriately adjusted to allow for everyone to be 6+ feet apart (e.g. cohorts, staggered scheduling, etc.).

Personal Hygiene

  • Students and staff should properly wash and/or sanitize hands as they enter and exit class.

Face Covering 

  • Students and staff should engage in appropriate and consistent use of cloth face coverings or masks, especially when indoors, for all individuals aged 3 and over who are able to wear a mask safely. Younger children should be encouraged to wear ear-loop style masks during physical activity to avoid strangulation risk. There is a state public health order that individuals 11 and over are to wear a mask/cloth face covering.

Equipment Safety, Sanitation, & Disinfection

  • Avoid sharing or passing of equipment among students in physical education.
  • Distribute equipment in a way to avoid student crowding, such as spreading it around the activity perimeter.
  • Avoid using any cloth or porous equipment or materials, if they cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected. 
  • All equipment that is touched by students and staff should be properly cleaned with soap and water and disinfected using an EPA-approved disinfectant with the school-specific equipment manufacturer and follows CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting guidance. 

Instruction

  • Focus on individual activities rather than team-based activities.
  • Select activities that require no physical contact or close proximity to one another.
  • Practice routines with students to ensure proper entry/exit equipment. usage/cleaning/gathering/returning, and movement protocols in the learning space.
  • Allow for enough transition time between groups of students to clean and disinfect highly touched surfaces/areas and/or equipment that was used.
  • Provide remote/hybrid instruction to certain classes (e.g., teach in-person for one-to-two classes, and provide remote instruction for others).
  • When teaching indoors when ventilation may be poor, focus on strength or flexibility rather than cardiovascular training to decrease aerosol generation.

 

  • Consider incorporating visual markings (e.g., cones, poly spots, floor tape) and signage (arrows, rules, etc.) to assist students with maintaining physical distance of 6+ feet and keeping directional flow.
  • Consider consulting with the school nurse or COVID-19 team on proper protocols for students wearing face coverings during moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, particularly for those with chronic health conditions.
  • Consider using proper equipment, assigning students their own equipment to be used for the entire class period and clean/disinfect between class periods and keep extra materials available if equipment becomes dirty or unsanitary during the lesson.
  • Consider establishing equipment collection routines, including clean and dirty collection bins, which then must also be cleaned and a place for cleaned and sanitized equipment .
  • Consider rotating equipment so that every other class uses it, providing time for cleaning and drying of equipment.
  • Consider assigning equipment to specific cohorts.  
  • Collect used equipment in a specific, marked bin or area of the teaching space until it can be disinfected.
  • Consider adding more frequent breaks and adjust the intensity of activity for students, particularly those with chronic conditions.
  • Consider using a microphone to speak, as the face covering may make it difficult to hear.
  • Consult with your school/district nurse to determine how to further make the instructional environment safe and supportive for those with chronic health conditions.

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Graduation

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

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Hallways

At times, during the school day, and especially in secondary schools, hallways may be very crowded with lots of students very close together. This is a prime environment for the spread of illness.

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider establishing one-way hallways to reduce contact with others.
  • Consider physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least six feet apart in lines and at other times (i.e., guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).
  • Consider keeping students in class and rotating teachers instead.
  • Consider staggering passing periods by cohorts in grade level or by class if students must move to classes.

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Identified Isolated Health Room/Area

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Identify an isolated health room/area for students and staff exhibiting COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
  • Contact parents/guardians using your district/school parent/guardian contact procedures.

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Libraries

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • CDPHE does not require or recommend disinfecting books in school libraries or other settings, although good hand hygiene is recommended. If possible consider keeping books within cohorts.
  • A 72 hour period between book use, may be the best option and practice for school settings.

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Locker Rooms

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Physical Distancing

  • 6-foot between-student spacing reduces disease transmission risk and should be preferred.
  • Teachers and other adult staff should make the greatest effort to adhere to 6-foot distancing, as their risk and disease transmission potential is higher than students.

Environment

  • It is recommended that schools eliminate the use of locker rooms and the requirement that students must change into a physical education uniform for participation in physical education. Instead of using lockers, consider keeping each student’s belongings in a separate, safe and clean space, such as baskets to hold individual student belongings if lockers are not available.
  • If a school chooses to use locker rooms and lockers, assign lockers for physical education classes or athletics, skipping every two lockers so there is 6-feet between students' lockers.
  • Discourage sharing of lockers that are difficult to clean or disinfect on a routine basis.
  • Assign lockers that face in the same direction, rather than facing each other.
  • Use arrows along the floor so that entry into locker areas is one-way.
  • Use a staggered entry with an adult at the entry controlling the number of students in the locker areas to reduce crowding in entrances and walkways.
  • Showers should not be used due to the potential of spreading aerosol droplets.
  • Discourage the use of locker rooms to outside organizations that share or use the school facilities

Cleaning/Disinfecting

  • Sanitize all high touch surface areas between class periods.
  • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.

Communication

  • Post signs that encourage every day protective measures (properly washing hands, wearing a cloth face covering, physical distancing) in highly visible locations (e.g., locker rooms)

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Lockers

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider not allowing the use of lockers. Instead allow students to bring belongings to the classroom and place in a personal cubby or container.
  • If locker use is needed, create processes for fewer students to access their locker at the same time, and ensure that students are at least 6 feet apart when accessing their lockers.

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Open Periods

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider scheduling students to eliminate any open periods, or assign students to a designated safe area during open periods.

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Performing Arts (Dance, Music, Theater)

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
 

In collaboration with CDPHE using the CSU Aerosol Emissions Study, NFHS, the performing arts guidance has been updated.  Bold areas show changes to the guidance.

Choir, chorus, band, and indoor athletic pursuits (whether artistic or competitive) are among the highest risk activities, given that all inherently involve forceful respiration in a confined space. Evidence shows that forceful respiration is high risk for a super spreader event. As schools within our state work through multiple challenges in the times ahead, music education is an important component to a well-rounded education to support the well-being of all students and the entire school community. The physical, mental, and emotional safety of our children is our first concern, and, working together, we can continue to sustain the quality of education in Colorado.

When greater than normal respiratory effort occurs, measures in addition to 6-foot distancing are required  to prevent viral transmission. Studies have shown that vocal performers and wind and brass instruments also emit high levels of small respiratory droplets and aerosols. 

Because no single tactic can completely eliminate the risk of disease transmission, the transmission mitigation tactics below are intended to work together. Because the contexts of performing arts education are specific to the local school/district community and grade level, schools should develop an individual plan.  

Schools and districts are also encouraged to work with their local public health agency, including sharing school plans for feedback. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is also available to provide feedback to school plans, if requested.

  • Participants (e.g., players, performers, actors, competitors, entertainers, etc.) in events should have their symptoms checked, and participants who have been in close contact with an exposed or symptomatic person should not participate.

  • Participants should wear a mask before, during, and after performances and rehearsals, excepting individuals playing wind or brass instruments while actively playing their instruments. Individuals playing wind or brass instruments should utilize a bell cover designed for their instrument during performance and rehearsal, including solo practice in shared spaces.

  • Individual vocalists and performers of wind or brass instruments should be positioned 6 feet from one another. Instrument bells should not be directed towards other individuals, and vocal performers should not directly vocalize towards other individuals. Condensate from wind and brass instruments should be collected in appropriate receptacles and disposed of properly.

  • Allow for at least 30 minutes or 3 air exchanges (whichever is shorter) between room occupancy after activities involving vocal speech or singing, wind or brass instruments, or activities that cause heavy breathing.

  • Portions of a class with increased aerosol activities should be done outside to provide more social distancing, weather permitting. Outdoor rehearsals and performances are best because they allow for rapid air exchange. 

  • Avoid activities that require physical contact.

  • Develop live-performance alternatives or substitutes that meet ‘Performing’  and/or 'Expression' state standards, following national guidelines. 

  • Give special consideration to locker room/dressing room/green room usage, sanitation, and ventilation. (See locker room guidance.)

  • Use markings on the floor or student workstations to adhere to physical distance requirements in classrooms requiring movement.

  • Consider adding temporary hand washing stations to classrooms or areas where sinks are not available. 

  • High touch surfaces, such as music stands, must be disinfected following the NFHS, NAfME, and NAMM  Instrument Cleaning Guidelines and Information, and every effort should be made to reduce touching surfaces by separate players. Avoid sharing wind or brass instruments. Wash hands before and after playing instruments with soap and water. Hand sanitizer may be used if hand washing is not available. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.

  • K-5 Grades Notes:

    • There is a state public health order that individuals 11 and over are to wear a mask/cloth face covering. Masks are also strongly recommended for children between 3-10 years.

    • In elementary classrooms, singing, chanting, humming, etc. may all be integral parts of the normal in-classroom curriculum, and there should not be any issue with continuing these instruction methods as appropriate for the grade level of the students.

    • It may not be developmentally appropriate for elementary-aged students to maintain 6 foot distancing throughout the school day. The greatest emphasis on spacing should be placed on distancing during high risk activities, including vocal performance and rehearsal and playing wind/brass instruments. 

    • Apply the performing arts audience guidance (below) for public performances planned. 

  • Ensemble size limits should be applied to both indoor and outdoor performing arts, and are inclusive of performers, instructors, and observers less than 25 feet from the ensemble.

Dial Level

Indoor Ensemble

Outdoor Ensemble

Red

10*

20*

Orange

20*

40*

Yellow

30*

60*

Blue

Maximum capacity using calculator (https://covid19.colorado.gov/social-distancing-calculator)

Maximum capacity using calculator (https://covid19.colorado.gov/social-distancing-calculator)

Green

No capacity restrictions. Continue to follow 6 foot spacing.

No capacity restrictions. Continue to follow 6 foot spacing.

*Capacity limits under Red, Orange, Yellow should not exceed the maximum number of occupants allowed using the Social distancing space calculator: (https://covid19.colorado.gov/social-distancing-calculator

Marching Band

Audiences.

  • Performers, audiences, and venues should follow CDPHE’s relevant indoor event and outdoor event guidance, including applicable capacity restrictions based on Dial level.

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Prom

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has released the following COVID-19 Prom Guidance.

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Recess, Playgrounds, Gyms

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Recess may occur outside. Playground equipment may be used by small groups of students as long as they wash their hands upon returning into the school.
  • Indoor gym equipment may be used, if the equipment is disinfected after each group of students' use. Consider staggering recess times for each class/cohort.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider designating separate areas in open spaces; use floor marking in teaching spaces (student sections/workstations).

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Restrooms

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • If students are cohorted by the same hallway/floor, designate a restroom for the cohort.
  • Display signage in the restrooms illustrating proper hand washing and hygiene. Ensure adequate soap is available.
  • Consider systems to reduce simultaneous, multiple users and thus contact with others.
  • Consider increasing cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas, such as door handles, faucets, and paper towel dispensers.

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Visitors

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups in order to minimize interaction with additional individuals.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider health protocols for community members that use building space.

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Visual Arts

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Develop art exhibition alternatives or substitutes that meet ‘Presenting' state standards, following national guidelines.

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Care for Staff and Students Who Become Ill at School

Overview

Care for Staff and Students Who Become Ill at School: PHO 20-38- Effective May 2, 2021, and expires May 15, 2021

Although caring for staff and students who become ill at school frequently occurs in schools, the information below is designed to support schools in making decisions on how to care for individuals who may exhibit COVID-like symptoms. 

Schools and child care shall work with their local public health agencies as COVID-19 cases occur, and shall follow the CDPHE guidance for Cases and Outbreaks in Schools and Child Care.

 


Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Care for Students with Chronic Conditions

Overview

Caring for students with chronic conditions may require additional protocols to ensure they are properly supported.


Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • Train and delegate staff to administer medications and other medical treatments ordered by authorized care providers, per Colorado Board of Nursing Chapter 13 - Rules and Regulations Regarding the Delegation of Nursing Tasks 3 CCR 716-1 and Colorado State Board of Education Rules for Administration of Medications 1 CCR 301-68
  • Ensure safe medication storage, per CDPHE Rules and Regulations Governing Schools in the State of Colorado 6 CCR 1010-6 6.13 G.
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • To implement Student Health Care Plans and 504 Plans, school staff should discuss the student's health and safety needs with parent/guardian and medical provider to identify how to meet the student needs safely.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Students for different reasons may struggle with wearing a mask. Please consider planning with providers on how to support students' needs while maintaining health and safety protocols.

Protect Populations Identified as at Increased Risk of Severe Illness from COVID-19

Overview

Protecting the health of vulnerable populations, including students and educators, is important. Each individual may have a different level of comfort returning to in-person learning, so it is important to listen to their needs and concerns and provide them options.


Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Comply with legal requirements to provide alternative work assignments for older adults, pregnant people, and  those identified as at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
    • Allow parents to make the best decision for their families regarding attendance and provide remote learning options.
    • Decisions should be made on a case by case basis in collaboration with the student's parent/guardian, medical provider and appropriate school staff.
    • Consider how to support staff who may be a part of these categories. Staff in these categories may feel more comfortable supporting students who are continuing to learn through remote options, as well as virtually supporting learners and their families to navigate the new way of schooling and help accessing resources to support the continuity of learning.

School Immunization Requirements

Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • State Board of Health rule 6 CCR 1009-2. C.R.S. 25-4-902 requires students to be immunized prior to attending school unless exempted by law.
    • While the vaccines to prevent COVID-19 are in development, the need to protect children from vaccine preventable disease (VPD) is a high priority in Colorado. Because of the concern of potential VPD outbreaks during COVID-19, the Colorado Board of Health school-required immunization rules remain in place.
    • Parents should be encouraged to contact their health care providers to inquire about routine well-child visits during COVID-19, or to reach out to their local public health agencies to know when immunization services are available in their communities.
    • CDPHE Immunization resources for child care, schools & college/universities

Respond to General Emergencies

Overview

Districts and schools will continue to respond to general emergencies, including child abuse reporting, evacuation plans, and crisis intervention.


Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.
  • Continue child abuse reporting process.
    • C.R.S. 19-3-304 requires educators who have "reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect" or who have "observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect" to report that information to the local law enforcement agency or through the child abuse reporting hotline system as set forth in section C.R.S. 26-5-111.
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Establish safe distancing protocols for fire drills, evacuation and shelter in place planning.
  • ​Identify staff with CPI/QBS or other crisis Intervention training to assist with behavioral and emotional emergency responses.

Enforcement of Public Health Orders

Overview

Under Colorado law, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has the authority to close or limit access to theaters, schools, and other public places. The executive director also may forbid gatherings of people, or may seek isolation or quarantine of individuals, when necessary to protect the public health, and to investigate and control the causes of epidemic and communicable diseases affecting the public health.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Emergency Operations Center has detailed information connected to enforcement of public health orders.


Local Orders and Variances

Single District in Single County Local Orders and Variance Process:

  1. Local Public Health Authority (LPHA) collaborates with schools/districts and the local school board in the county to draft a variance request using the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) factors weighted in determining whether to grant a variance.
  2. LPHA submits the draft variance request to the county commissioners who would need to pass a resolution to support the variance.
  3. The LPHA or the County Office then submits the variance request to CDPHE using the established CDPHE online variance form.
  4. CDPHE reviews variance request and provides feedback and/or accepts the Board of County Commissioners variance.

Single District in More than One County:

  • CDPHE is reviewing a potential regional variance process.
  • In the meantime, a district would need to work with each of the LPHAs within their district boundaries using the process above.

Continuity of Learning

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Continuity of Learning

Overview

While it is likely that school will look different in 2020-21, we don’t know exactly what that will look like yet. It is also likely that it will need to look different at different times during the school year. In order to provide the greatest continuity of learning possible, the following sections outline considerations and guidance for maximizing instruction in different scenarios.


NEW

Roadmap to In-Person Learning

Gov. Polis released a report from his Back-to-School Working Group (PDF) to provide districts with a roadmap to getting back to safe in-person learning for the winter/spring semester. The state’s goal is to get back to safe, consistent in-person learning for the second half of the 2020-21 school year.

Additionally, the governor’s office also drafted two cover letters, one for parents/caregivers (PDF) and one for educators and school staff (PDF), that go along with the report. The governor’s office encourages district and school leaders to share these resources widely.


Nimble, Flexible Instructional Options


As the situation evolves, districts and schools will need to consider planning, scheduling, and educational services and resources to support students as they enter the new school year. The ideas below are designed to begin these conversations and plan for fall opportunities.


Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Consider using CDE approved reading intervention programs.
    • Starting in the 2020-21 school year, districts need to include information about how their reading programs are scientifically or evidence-based in their UIPs.  Although the reading programs do not need to be from CDE’s approved list, they must meet the scientifically or evidence-based criteria.  If districts use one of the approved programs, then it automatically meets the criteria. If districts use their READ funds to purchase an instructional program, it must be on the CDE approved list.
  • Some districts have expressed an interest in opening and sustaining an online program/school beyond the 2020-21 school year. Please contact the office of Blended and Online Learning to assist.

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Plans should take into account the entire 2020-21 school year.


Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Prepare for individual students who will be impacted by COVID-19 and will learn from home.
  • Consider assessing student learning gaps upon reopening, and adjust curriculum pacing for these needs.
  • Consider how the Summer School Guidance could assist with fall planning efforts. Many districts are considering starting the school year by adding a summer semester and launching summer programs to sustain connections with students and enriching students’ learning to support a successful fall school beginning.

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider allowing teachers' children to come to school everyday to support staff returning to work.​
  • Consider Cohorting students by the same class/group of students so that they function independently as much as possible from other students. Each group of students would recess together, eat together, have passing time together, etc. Creating cohorts where students remain together and the teachers move between classes could reduce contact with other students and slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Consider 'Looping' elementary school teachers with the same group of students from 2019-20 so that students return to a familiar face for increased emotional security, maximize instructional time by starting with established relationships and knowledge of students' learning needs.
  • Consider Flex-Grades. A 5th grade class becomes a 4th/5th grade class with teachers starting the year with content from the last few months of 4th grade that may have not been covered due to COVID-19 remote learning environment
  • Consider learning opportunities that include daily/weekly check-ins with students.
  • Consider master schedule adjustments for additional instructional time in identified contents.Consider which content areas most need in-person instruction (music, science labs, etc.) and which may be better suited to remote learning.
  • Consider which content areas most need in-person instruction (music, science labs, etc.) and which may be better suited to remote learning.

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Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

                 

Supports for Gifted and Talented Learners:

  • Schools must make every effort to identify and provide appropriate gifted education services for gifted and talented learners. Gifted education programming options and services must be provided for at least the number of days calendared for the school year (2220-R-12.00).  Local districts may choose how to meet requirements regarding the identification of gifted learners and what gifted programming approaches will be employed within their district.

Guidance and considerations for meeting ECEA requirements specific to gifted education can be found here.  Ongoing updates will be made to this information including strategies and promising practices from the field.

Gifted and Talented: Guiding Questions

  • Does the school team have access to the student's Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) to understand the strengths and social emotional needs of the child?

  • Are resources in place to provide the needed accommodations for the student to access appropriate content and pacing?

  • Are gifted education services in place to support the instructional needs of the student?

Resources for Gifted and Talented

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

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2020-21 School Scenarios

Overview

As the epidemiological data changes over time, it is important to plan for a variety of fall learning approaches. We are hopeful that there will be enough data to have more flexible approaches by communities next school year, so please keep that in mind as you read the requirements and guidance.

We also recognize that there are risks or trade-offs to the different opening scenarios, with many different factors and priorities to weigh in decision making. For example, remote learning scenarios may be a barrier to a child’s ability to engage in learning, master content and feel connected to the school community. Simultaneously, in-person learning may lead to health risks for staff and students to varying degrees. In this unprecedented time, parents will have to decide what learning environment they are comfortable with and local schools and districts will weigh the different risks and family input as they decide on the choices and options available.

Decisions about whether in-person instruction is suspended may be made in a variety of ways:

  1. A statewide Executive Order or Public Health Order may suspend in-person instruction (as was the case in the spring of 2020) or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate. If an Executive Order or Public Health Order is not in place, then
  2. Local public health departments may issue a local health order suspending in-person instruction at a site or for an entire district or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate. If a local health order is not in place, then move to #3 below.
  3. A school district, in collaboration with the local health department, may decide to suspend in-person instruction or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate due to the number of cases in the school or community.

Remote, in-person, and physically distanced approaches, as well as rolling starts and stops to in-person learning are provided for district and school considerations as they design their fall opening plans. The Colorado Department of Education, through school district websites, has gathered reopening plans from across the state.  That information is located within the Colorado School District Reopening Plans.

 


Prerequisites

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider the prerequisites for remote learning, ie, devices for every student, internet and connectivity access, safe place to learn during the day.
  • Consider students’ feasibility to access synchronous remote learning opportunities during the day, especially for students who may need to care for a sibling(s), work, and/or share devices with other household members. Consider developing asynchronous remote learning options to support students needing an alternative. Please see resources below to support asynchronous remote learning.
  • Consider how to provide translation of remote learning assignments for students learning English as a Second Language. Both the ESSER and CRF funds may be used to support translation services for English Learner instruction during remote learning days. There is also a state contract with Language Link that many districts use for translation services.
  • Consider how the school librarian could support and collaborate with remote learning work as listed here.
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Community and Partner Resources

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider access to public libraries’ remote resources.
  • Consider access to Colorado Digital Learning Solutions - the state-supported supplemental online program that provides Colorado districts, BOCES, and charter schools access to high quality online courses that supplement their existing course offerings in a 21st century learning environment. Students can use these courses for credit retrieval, advanced courses, curriculum enhancement and/or to resolve scheduling conflicts. CDLS can supplement your local middle school and high school curriculum with a wide variety of courses designed for students in all performance ranges, from at-risk to advanced students.
    • CDLS provides elective courses, including career technical education courses for career exploration.

Work-based Learning

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider virtual internships/job shadows with a remote student work-plan.
  • Consider community partners’ resources and opportunities that already exist:
    • Apprenticeship Directory, Sector Partnerships , Chamber of Commerce, Business
    • Services Representatives within your local workforce center, Local Community College
      • Business Services, Local COHelps liaison
    • Career Conversations Training for staff from Colorado Education Initiative
    • Colorado Succeeds Roadmap to Work-Based Learning

Equitable Grading

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Examine how grading policies affect each student group and create an equitable system of instruction, assessment, and grading.
  • Examples of inequitable grading policies include, but are not limited to, evaluating assignments that are easier to complete in-person than remotely; not accounting for differences in learning resources across different remote settings; penalizing students learning from home who are not able to log in synchronously with group members learning in-person.

Provide Options

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider continuing online instruction full-time for some students, especially those identified with underlying health conditions, undergoing disease treatment, or those with family members who are at-risk. Provide remote/ online options for families requesting to continue remote learning.
  • Consider hiring "monitors" or "proctors" to be in the classroom with students while the quarantined teacher teaches remotely through live stream into the classroom. The term "monitor" and "proctor" may encourage more individuals to join the class instead of using the term "substitute". 
  • Consider on-demand virtual tutoring for students to ask questions and receive support.
  • Consider the Online Options available during the 2020-21 school year.
  • Consider the services offered by Colorado Empowered Learning (CEL) the state-supported supplemental online program that provides Colorado districts, BOCES, and charter schools access to low cost, standards-aligned online courses on demand, teacher professional development and district technical assistance for creating blended and online learning models.
  • Consider on-demand lessons/tutoring, such as Khan Academy or ZEARN. Khan Academy would be aligned to the Common Core in English and Math, so there would be some strong alignment to the Colorado Academic Standards.
  • If schools return to remote learning, consider how educators may virtually meet with students one-on-one at least once a week to ensure students are learning and comfortable with projects and assignments.
  • Consider project-based learning, applied learning, capstones, etc.
  • Consider CDE's Resource List for Learning from Home. Resources are provided by content and grade level.
  • Consider how remote group-oriented work may occur to build essential skills like collaboration and communication, as well as assist with maintaining a level of connectedness with other students.
  • Consider Data Privacy when planning for remote learning.

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If schools ensure that Executive Orders and County Health Orders are followed, in-person learning may occur, but will need to look different than traditional in-person learning. Districts should work with their local county health department, if they are considering suspending in-person instruction without an Executive Order or statewide Public Health Order.


Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Safety Protocol Reminders:
    • Screen staff, students and essential visitors, based on public health recommendations, safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider Cohorting students by the same class/group of students so that they function independently as much as possible from other students. Each group of students would recess together, eat together, have passing time together, etc. Creating cohorts where students remain together and the teachers move between classes could reduce contact with other students and slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Consider smaller group instruction for students needing to catch up the most.
  • Consider prioritizing younger students or students with special learning needs for small group in-person instruction. However, consider the importance of a positive school connection for secondary students' well-being."
  • If students are expected to mask, implement an influencer campaign "masks are cool".
  • Consider purchasing a microphone so students can hear teachers through masks. This could be especially beneficial for students who are hard of hearing.

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Small, in-person learning with remote learning rotations/staggers

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Parents and students may have very different reactions and comfort levels with school in 2020-21. Consider how to maximize choice for students and families in where students learn. Consider having students who are best at remote learning continue to learn from home to give "space" to those who need in-person learning most while maintaining physical distancing.

  • Consider 1-2 days of remote learning each week and focus in-person learning to deep instructional techniques.
  • Consider bringing younger students (P-6) or students with special learning needs (P-12) back to in-person learning spread out across school buildings, while older students who may be better able to handle online learning stay at home. This could assist with some childcare needs for younger students, allowing parents to return to work.
  • Consider what is most important to do in-person, and then what is easier to do remotely (self-guided learning (for older students), projects, other practice tasks, specific content areas).
  • Consider a Cohort-Based Schedule to group cohorts of students and staff on the same hallway/floor, or having the same group of students stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children) and rotating the teachers instead of the students. Restrict mixing between groups as much as possible.
  • Consider assigning siblings to same day schedules to accommodate family needs.
  • Consider 1-way hallways.
  • Consider rotating teachers, instead of transitioning students, even at the secondary level.
  • Consider student staggered schedules to decrease the number of people in the building allowing for physical distancing. Below are a few example schedules to generate ideas.
  • Consider extending and expanding learning spaces into the community and into the outdoors. Additional information may be found at https://caee.org/eeGuidanceSchools.

Staggered Attendance Schedule Examples:

Model

Plan

A/B Model (1)

  • 1/2 the students report on "A" days(Mon/Tues)
  • 1/2 the students report on "B" days (Wed/Thur)
  • Friday is PD day or remote options day.
  • Deep cleaning between Tuesday and Wednesday occurs for new groups of students.

A/B Model (2)

  • Same as version 1 above, except Wednesday is the PD day or remote options day to allow for extended cleaning time before new groups of students arrive Thursday.

A/B Model (3)

  • 1/2 the students report on "A" days (Mon/Tues)
  • Wednesday is in-person specials and/or social emotional learning programming.
  • 1/2 the students report on "B" days (Thur/Fri)

A/B/C Model

  • Monday is remote learning day for all students
  • 1/3 of the students report Tues, Wed, Thurs
  • Friday is a PD day

A/B/C/D model

  • Same as the A/B/C model above, except Friday is a is an additional in-person learning day for special population students needing support.

A/B Alternating Weeks model

  • Group A attends in-person on week 1, 3, 5……
  • Group B attends online on week 1, 3, 5…...
  • Group A attends online classes on week 2, 4, 6…
  • Group B attends in-person on week 2, 4, 6……..
A/B/C Alternating Weeks model

Week 1

  • Group A- attends in person
  • Group B- remote learning
  • Group C- remote learning

Week 2

  • Group A- remote learning
  • Group B- attends in person
  • Group C- remote learning

Week 3

  • Group A- remote learning
  • Group B- remote learning
  • Group C- attends in person

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Plan for more staggered shut downs with a minimum of 24 hours to possibly several weeks of closure and then a re-open.
    • Consider the different instructional needs in this scenario and how to most seamlessly transition in and out of in-person instruction.

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider stipends for staff to build the instructional planning infrastructure between in-person and remote learning environments.
  • Consider using a district/school Learning Management System (LMS) for all lessons whether in-person or remote to assist with toggling between in-person and remote learning, if it occurs.
  • In advance, create communications for staff and families to explain how to make it safe to have students back at school after the 'stay at home' policy.

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Educational Considerations

From an education policy standpoint, there are three schooling options available to families in Colorado: (1) public schools, including charter and online options, (2) private schools, and (3) homeschooling.

  • If students are enrolled in a public school and parents form a learning pod to support remote learning, there are no education policy implications. This would be similar to a tutoring situation.
  • If students are not enrolled in a public school, then the learning pod would be considered a homeschool if the parent or adult relative of the student serves as the student’s instructor. CDE’s website has resources for homeschooling.
  • If students are not enrolled in a public school and the parent or adult relative is not the primary instructor, the learning pod would be considered a private school. The Colorado Secretary of State’s website provides information on the business aspect of running a private school, and CDE’s website provides information on educational requirements for private schools.

Health and Safety Considerations

 

There are childcare licensing requirements related to health and safety depending on how many unrelated children come together on a regular basis. Colorado’s Child Care Licensing Act defines child care requirements, and CDHS regulates child care in the state. There are some child care situations that are exempt from licensing requirements, including family child care homes serving four or fewer children. More information about child care licensing can be found here.

On September 10, 2020 Governor Jared Polis provided temporary flexibility under Executive Order D 2020 188 to allow learning pods to be exempt from licensing if they provide care for five or fewer school-age children aged 6 to 9 or eight or fewer school-age children aged 10 or older.

District Sponsored Learning Pods

District sponsored learning pods conducted on school property and under the jurisdiction of the school district considered to be instructional or during in-school time have no requirement to be licensed through CDHS.

An example of district sponsored learning pods is the Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Read an overview here.

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Conditions for Learning

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Conditions for Learning

In this time where physical distancing and remote education has become necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, social connection is more important than ever. We know it is crucial for our students and staff to feel connected to a supportive community to help support their well-being, and we know that creating and maintaining these relationships via remote learning is a new challenge for educators to meet. With this in mind, we have compiled a few ideas and resources to assist educators in this effort.

 


Well-being and Connectedness

Overview

In this time where physical distancing and remote education may be necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, deliberate planning to remain socially connected is more important than ever. We know it is crucial for our students and staff to feel connected to a supportive community to help support their wellbeing and academic growth. The options throughout this section provide considerations for both in-person and remote learning environments.


While the Colorado Department of Education does not endorse the external resources linked on this page, we have included them here to help you identify and evaluate resources for your school community. For a more in depth tools and resources on this topic, please visit: Colorado Education Initiative’s Strategic Reopening Collaborative Toolkit and the Healthy Schools Hub.

 


Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

 

  • Consider asking families about their needs connected to social-emotional wellbeing. Adams 12 School District provided a family Social-Emotional Wellbeing Assessment to assist their parents, and CDE is thankful to them for allowing it to be included in the CDE toolkit -  Westlake Middle School, Adams 12 School District, Social-Emotional Wellbeing Assessment.

  • Check in with students and create a simple referral process for teachers to report any students who are in need of additional support.

  • Consider training for staff on how to identify signs of struggle in students and establish a clear referral process.

  • Encourage the use of student support staff (school counselors, deans, administrators, librarians) to reach out to students through online means, by phone, or in person in alignment with state and local health guidance.

  • Provide consistency in daily routines to reduce stress and promote positive learning conditions.

  • Students may have challenging home environments, and this could greatly affect their performance during online learning. At-home learning will also make it difficult for students to report or teachers to assess students for abuse, which is usually done at schools.

  • Consider setting up regular remote one-on-one visual check ins to assess physical as well as social/emotional wellbeing of both students and staff working and learning remotely.

  • These uncertain times mean that the mental health needs of students and staff may increase. Taking the time to cultivate well-being can be especially beneficial for students with less access to healthcare. Consider incorporating activities such as virtually-instructed meditation and yoga into the school schedule to give students and staff some relief from the daily stress.

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

  • Build and maintain trusting relationships between staff and students to encourage academic engagement and stability. 

  • Communicate regularly with the school community (i.e., announcements, emails, online meetings) to promote a sense of community and belonging.

  • Encourage student voice by inviting students to contribute to the rules for your school and classrooms and providing space for student-led learning. Since classrooms may be different in 2020-21 from students’ previous experiences in schools, this will be even more important this year.

  • Create opportunities for staff to build and maintain relationships with one another that allow for collaboration, idea sharing and support during this unprecedented time.

  • Help each student engage in school and find purpose/meaning in their learning. 

  • Provide consistency in daily routines to reduce stress and promote positive learning conditions.

  • Create space in classrooms or online that will allow for students to emotionally regulate where students can have some alone time or space from others. 

  • Conduct check-in calls with students and families with the support of staff, including advisory/homeroom teachers and other staff. 

  • Send weekly or daily email blasts to students and families. Video messages can enhance the sense of connection as well.

  • Build a virtual classroom journal, website or blog with daily prompts to which students can respond.

  • Establish office hours where students can call (either by telephone or virtually) a trusted adult such as a teacher, counselor or other staff.

  • How we discipline students creates opportunities for students to feel connected or rejected from their classroom or school communities. If discipline actions are instituted for students who do not follow safety protocols, be sure to pay attention to equity and implicit bias. Research shows that students of color are disproportionately disciplined and more harshly punished than their peers for the same violation.

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Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

Ideas for How to Attend to Your Community

In this unprecedented time of upheaval and uncertainty, many students, parents and educators are understandably anxious and worried. Fear about the new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in children and adults. In addition, public actions such as physical distancing can make people feel isolated and lonely. Finding ways to help communities cope with stress in a healthy way is important. 

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Individualizing Responses for Student Needs

Overview

Identifying the potential learning gaps of students due to educational changes from COVID-19 will assist districts and schools in providing targeted support and resources to students. In addition, re-engaging students who may have dropped out of school or lost contact over the spring and summer may involve creative approaches to locate and re-engage them. Likewise, reaching out to English Language Learners and their families to address the impacts of the educational changes is important to responding to all students' needs. To best understand the needs of the student, provide 2-way communication opportunities and outreach that leads with understanding the student and the family approach first. We’ve also added information to support students and families experiencing homelessness and housing instability; outreach and support from school districts will be critical to ensure these students have educational access, resources and continuity.



Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Review data such as attendance, assignment completion, students “off-track” before March, READ plans, English Learners, students receiving special education services and engagement during remote learning.
  • Identify students who, at the time of school closures, were not meeting grade-level expectations, AND who have not engaged in remote learning.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider utilizing December 2019 to March 2020 school/district interim data and teacher recommendations based on classroom observations, class work, and assessments.
  • Develop or enhance processes for 2019-20 teachers to share their knowledge of students’ strengths and areas for focus with their 2020-21 teacher(s).
  • Consider how to clarify the difference between home-bound instruction for a medically fragile child with a disability versus virtual or remote learning at home. Home-bound instruction may be provided by in-person supports.

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Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Engage the regional migrant program if the child is migrant.
  • Initiate the communication now with students and families, and maintain the interactions.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Heighten and target already developed family engagement protocols to reach students and families who are unresponsive, e.g.: use family engagement liaisons, make individual phone calls, connect during food deliveries, reach out to friends/neighbors
  • Consider new families who have moved to your district and activate engagement centers to capture and build relationships with them.
  • Focus on building intentional relationships that acknowledge personal circumstances and challenges, e.g., on-going technology challenges, delays and access, family and work responsibilities.
    • For in-person, assign a school-based case manager for weekly check-in’s. For virtual, assign staff to establish one-to-one connection with disengaged students.
    • Consider staffing: Who do you have that can be leveraged? What needs are present based on specific district and site situations? How can wrap-around services be initiated?
    • Consider school librarians for connecting to students and families for re-engaging and for ongoing tech support.

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Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • 2019-2020 Distance Learning Guidance to address impacts on instruction for ELs during school closures and distance learning.
  • Determine how students provisionally identified as English Learners will participate in the standardized identification procedures. Likewise, consider how students who were provisionally redesignated from programming to confirm their English Proficiency.
  • Use accommodations that translate easily to distance learning, i.e., allow for extra time to modify work and opportunities to re-do and resubmit work.
  • Avoid using students who are English Language Learners as translators or interpreters when communicating with their parents/caregivers.
  • Aid English Language Learners’ comprehension of instructions by providing support such as graphic organizers and visuals.

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Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Engage the school district’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison if the student is experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • The McKinney-Vento Liaison is a primary point of contact for students who have lost housing due to COVID-19 (or any other reason). Liaisons help identify, enroll, and support the education of students experiencing homelessness.
  • Access contact information for Colorado liaisons by school district and the duties and responsibilities of the local liaison.
  • Work with the McKinney-Vento Liaison to determine “best interest” and whether McKinney-Vento students can stay in their school of origin.
  • Establish streamlined connections to ensure McKinney-Vento students get immediate enrollment into school (even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment) and immediate access to free school meals.
Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Read the COVID-19 McKinney-Vento Homeless Education FAQ  for resources and information on educational rights and protections for students who have experienced housing loss or instability
  • Review local policies to ensure they do not create new barriers for McKinney-Vento students including identification, transportation, and full participation
  • Determine the potential needs of different re-entry models on students experiencing homelessness (i.e. access to PPE, internet access, child care, meal distribution, credit accrual, trauma, SEL)

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Planning and Communication

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Planning and Communication

Learning and Adapting During 2020-21

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Overview

At CDE, we have been reflecting on our role to help our state as a whole accelerate our learning about what is working well for our students, families and teachers this year, and where we can learn from each other and improve. As a result, we are providing a resource bank of tools that schools and districts are using to help gather information about how the year is going and strategies for using that feedback to adapt their work. Colleagues from across the state have been gracious enough to share some of the tools they have been using. Sometimes feedback from a different perspective can lead to an easy tweak that makes a big impact for students. We believe deeply in the importance of continuous improvement- of reflection and adaptation- and this year continuous improvement is more important than ever.

We want this resource bank to truly be a resource for schools and districts. We also know many districts are using other tools to support parents, staff, and students, such as surveys, focus groups, COVID-19 trackers, and a variety of data digs to drive instruction. If districts have tools or strategies that they would like to share with their colleagues across the state, please send anything that you’d like to share to Alyssa Pearson (pearson_a@cde.state.co.us) and we will include them in the 2020-21 Toolkit. 

 

Resources

Tools for Learning

Student Surveys

Parent Surveys

Staff Surveys

COVID-19 Trackers

 

Teacher, Staff, and Family Preparation for Next School Year

Overview

During periods of uncertainty, planning and communication are critical focus areas for leaders. Planning without a solid understanding of what the fall will bring is a challenge, but there are areas of certainty that we can plan for now.

Local school boards, schools and districts are encouraged to partner with key stakeholders, including families, students, and community members, as an essential aspect of drafting plans. Clear, proactive, intentional two-way communication with these groups will help districts and schools create the most feasible plans for next school year.

Additionally, schools and districts are encouraged to provide regular communications about what they know and don’t know to help keep students, staff, and families informed. This section will provide information on planning and communication, and templates for this work.


Teacher and Staff Preparation

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Planning and Preparation Over the Summer
    • Engage with and ask teachers and staff: 
      • What went well in the spring and what did not;
      • Their comfort level with in-person instruction or remote learning for the fall, so that you may better gauge the the support needs for next year;
      • Feedback on the potential fall scenarios your district is considering.
    • Based on your learnings from the spring and summer (e.g., from any student/family/teacher needs assessment) how will you adjust and edit your PD plan for teachers?
    • Identify the training needs of teachers and staff, considering the following:
      • training on any technology platforms, including district LMS, that will be used
      • training on data privacy and security/FERPA training
      • training on using the curriculum for continuous learning
      • training on supporting and giving feedback to students
      • training on the accessibility needs of students with disabilities
      • training on effective student engagement (by grade level) within online/hybrid learning environments
  • Consider how to prepare teachers and staff for health protocols, supporting students and families psychological needs, and mental health support in remote learning or small in-person learning.
  • Consider summer professional learning opportunities for teachers to develop and deliver remote learning; run trials where students work from home; maintain new virtual capabilities and standardized plans for learning school-wide, prepare paper learning packets.
  • Consider how to allow teachers to collaborate over the summer to analyze student data (reading and math) and review curriculum covered (or not) during the spring of 2020, in order to inform instruction in the fall of 2020.
  • Strategically Support and Assign Staff
    • Consider providing in-person learning for teachers’ children (whether in or out of your district) to support teachers returning to work.
    • Consider how retired teachers and/or immune compromised teachers could virtually mentor new teachers and/or support virtual tutoring and remote learning.
    • Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (“HFWA”), an employer must provide paid leave to an employee under certain conditions, including taking care of someone else due to COVID-19 precautions, including a child whose school, place of care, or child care is closed or unavailable.
  • Educator Talent, Educator Effectiveness, and Licensing
  • New Teachers
    • Consider how to collaborate with partners, e.g., IHE and districts, regarding placement of student-teachers and other teacher preparatory work, e.g., practicum placements.
    • Consider options for induction and required training sessions.
    • Consider induction activities to reflect your district’s plans for reopening the school year.
  • Policy Considerations
    • Consider policies, including data privacy, related to students and staff that may need updating to reflect the new reopening plan.

Family Preparation

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Several districts shared a few of their promising practices as they connected with students and families. Promising Practices on Family, School, Community Partnering During COVID-19 from Districts and Schools 
  • Local school boards, schools and districts are encouraged to partner with key stakeholders, including families, students, community members and community-based youth organiziations, as an essential aspect of drafting plans. Clear, proactive, intentional two-way communication with these groups will help districts and schools create the most feasible plans for next school year.
  • Consider monthly parent-teacher conferences or connections throughout the 2020-21 school year to support and engage families.
  • Communicate with families (via surveys (Hanover Research sample surveys),, emails, phone calls, or social distancing home visits) to learn:
    • What went well in the spring and what did not;
    • Their comfort level with in-person instruction or remote learning in the fall so that you may better gauge the number of students returning to in-person learning;
    • If they plan to use school district transportation;
    • Feedback on the potential fall scenarios your district is considering.
  • Consider continuing to use the school-based Family Engagement Liaisons to communicate with and distribute resources to families.
  • Consider how families might access high-quality material(s) over the summer and fall that they can adapt for their children, including enrichment opportunities.
  • Consider how families might track their students' progress and understand the expectations for progress and ways that they can support their students' progress at home.
  • Consider how to acknowledge and document what can or cannot be provided to address the specially designed instruction or related service needs of a child with a disability.
  • Consider plans to discuss with families how specially designed instruction or related service will be provided for a child with a disability and/or a child identified as gifted.
  • Consider providing webinars for parents/guardians over the summer and at the start of the school year to learn about how to navigate the school's Learning Management System (LMS) or digital contents.
  • Consider providing webinars or live chats for parents/guardians over the summer and next school year to ask questions, share ideas, and express concerns.
  • For at-home learning, establish a plan and budget for integrating the use of remote simultaneous interpreters (RSI), to ensure communications needs are met with students and parents who speak languages other than English.
  • Create a communication line for parents/caregivers who speak languages other than English to contact teachers with any questions or concerns. 
  • Provide any communications or teaching materials in parents/caregivers’ native languages.
  • Consider asking parents to have their children practice wearing face masks over the summer so that they more easily transition to this expectation in the fall. Provide parents talking-points on how to engage students in a conversation around health and safety.
  • Engage families, community members, and organizations in culturally responsive ways, assuming positive intent and with grace and compassion.
  • Keep student and family voices at the center of decision making to ensure schools are prioritizing what is most important for families.
  • Ensure families have a single/primary contact point (advisor, counselor, etc.)
  • CDC School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians. Direct link here.
  • CDC Back to School Planning: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers. Direct link here.
  • School administrators can encourage parents and caregivers to have documentation at-the-ready in case of an emergency childcare situation, as described in the the Colorado Be Prepared: Make a Plan information.
     

Family Engagement in the 2020-21 Opening of Schools

General overview of the District/BOCES/Charter Schools 2020-21 reopening

Certainly one of the most challenging projects being undertaken by school systems and their respective communities is the local plan for the 2020-21 opening of schools.  The process by which planning decisions are made will vary by school and/or school district, but one theme common to all is that these decisions are made with the good intent of protecting a quality educational experience for children as well as for the protection of public health. School districts and charter schools are responsible for most decisions concerning educational experiences; public health decisions will be made in a variety of ways:

  1. A statewide Executive Order or Public Health Order may suspend in-person instruction (as was the case in the spring of 2020) or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate. If an Executive Order or Public Health Order is not in place, then 
  2. Local public health departments may issue a local health order suspending in-person instruction at a site or for an entire district or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate. If a local health order is not in place, then move to #3 below.
  3. A school district, in collaboration with the local health department, may decide to suspend in-person instruction or otherwise determine requirements for the ways in which schools can physically operate due to the number of cases in the school or community.

Executive Orders and Public Health Orders Flowchart

Governor’s Executive Orders and State Public Health Orders are the top level. These lead to Local Executive Orders, Local Public Health Orders and Approved Local Variances. These lead to District, BOCES, Charter Policies.

CDE’s COVID-19 school resources and communications can be found here: http://www.cde.state.co.us/safeschools.  This website also provides links to the governor’s executive orders pertaining to education, guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and information for contacting your local public health agency).

How can families be involved? 

The means of engaging family and community involvement in this local decision-making will certainly vary by each school system as per their own local choices, policies, and procedures.  For example,districts may choose to involve families and communities in these decisions through accountability committees, written surveys, solicitations for public comment, task force committees, calendar committees, virtual inputs, local board of education meetings, as well as a myriad of other choices.  In order to determine how a local school system receives input and comments, families may contact their local school or school district office.

How can families share feedback about the school’s opening plan?

Sometimes, a person may disagree with a school or district decision regarding its 2020-21 back to school plan.  Unlike some other states, Colorado is, by constitution and state law, a "local control" state which means that many decisions are made respectively by the 178 school districts and their local school boards.  

If families have concerns regarding local plans for the 2020-21 opening of school, they are encouraged to contact their school principal, district superintendent, or local school board members . If families have already contacted their local school district parties and are in need of clarification around state and local requirements, families can contact the CDE Field Service Manager for their region of the state. Contact information for this person can be found at the CDE Colorado Education Regions Web Page. Please click on the state map for the contact information for your region.


Communications

Effective and ongoing communications is a critical component before, during, and after any school crisis. Implementing specific communication procedures and protocols will allow staff, students, families, and the community to safely re-engage in the education process. 

Effective Communications Procedure 

  • Who: Identify who, or which department, will issue information to key audiences. Consider a central point of contact to assure key messages are accurate and consistent. 
  • What: Consider central and supporting messages, such as a consistent connection to student safety.
  • When: Consider when information will be shared. Consider how to notify school employees prior to the schedule for releasing information to others.
  • How: Consider which communication tools will be the most effective in reaching primary audiences.
  • Communication templates will be available mid to late July.
    • It is recommended that all vital information be shared at one time to reduce confusion, misunderstanding, and anxiety.
    • Use communication strategies that reach families where English is not the language primarily spoken in the home.
    • Use communication methods that accommodate persons with hearing and/or visual impairment.
    • Use multiple modalities for message dissemination to ensure that communities without internet access receive all communication. 

Communications for Parents/Guardians: 

  • Consider information notifying of start date. 
  • Consider information on the health and safety measures the school/district is taking to ensure students can return to school. 
  • Consider information the school/district will implement to support appropriate safety protocols for students and others entering school facilities. 
  • Consider how to share expectations of parents and students for remote learning, if the school must close for a COVID-19 case. 
  • Consider sharing basic information on COVID-19 and measures families can take to stay safe when not at school. 
  • Consider updating parent/student handbooks on when to keep a student home and the process for notifying the school. 
  • Consider information on helping children cope with stress and tragedies (Wellbeing and Connectedness During COVID-19 | CDE).
  • Consider partnering with Tribal Nations and additional community groups to ensure that communication is culturally sensitive and appropriate.  

Communications to Students: 

  • Consider putting up posters in all buildings and provide other messaging on hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes. 
  • Consider how to ensure consistent messaging across district schools. 
  • Consider collaborating with feeder schools when developing messaging to help ensure that students in the same family are receiving the same messaging. 

Communications to the Public: 

  • Consider posting reminders at entryways not to enter the school if experiencing signs of illness. 
  • Consider partnering with Tribal Nations and additional community groups to ensure that communication is culturally sensitive and appropriate. 
  • Consider families for whom English is not the primary language spoken at home. 

Adding Days to School Calendar

Overview

Districts and schools may want to consider the option of adding days to their school calendars to provide additional learning time for students. District/school calendars are local decisions, and below are a few considerations to begin this process if desired by a district or school.


Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.
  • Consider flexible approaches to add days or minutes onto the school day to the school calendar based on student learning needs. Additional days might be needed for all students or specific students based on learning gaps.
  • Consider funding sources and implications to support additional days pending the district’s approach. (Consider Federal CARES Act dollars)
  • Consider the feasibility of exchanging full-day professional development days to full-day instructional days, or variations of this.
  • Consider collective bargaining agreements when exploring flexible approaches to expanded hours or days.

Food Service Program

Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.

School Nutrition during COVID-19

When schools closed last March due to COVID-19:

  • Districts continued offering meals through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also referred to as emergency feeding. Districts were able to provide free meals to all youth 0-18 and there were several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers that provided flexibility for SFSP requirements.

This fall, when school is back in session:

  • Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) operations will end once school begins, whether that’s in-person or remote learning, and districts will return to operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).
  • Program requirements for NSLP and SBP remain in place, including:
    • All reimbursable meals must meet the NSLP and SBP meal patterns.
    • Meals must be claimed by the student’s eligibility status (free, reduced or paid), unless participating in a provisional program, such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
  • The USDA has extended flexibility through a series of waivers for the NSLP and SBP to help districts continue to provide meals while minimizing exposure to COVID-19.
  • Waivers include flexibility such as non-congregate meals, parent pick-up, and multiple meal distribution and are in place through the 2020-2021 school year.

School Nutrition back to school planning: http://www.cde.state.co.us/nutrition/backtoplanning

FAQs: http://www.cde.state.co.us/nutrition/back2schoolfoodservicefaq

 

If you have any questions, please contact:

Food Service Program


Policy and Funding

20-21 School Year - Policy and Funding

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We know that implementing the new protocols and routines associated with COVID-19 may raise challenges with budgets and existing policies. This is further complicated from a decline in state revenue and fewer resources in the state budget, resulting in the need to use the new federal funds to support fall planning implementation. Existing education policies may also need to be adjusted or temporarily suspended over the coming year as well, if implementation is not feasible during this time.


A number of new funds are available to support implementation, including:

  • Leveraging Funds for Student Success Guidance
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (CARES Act)
    • Colorado has been allocated $120,993,782 from the ESSER Fund. At least 90% of funding will go to LEAs based on Title 1 shares.
      • LEAs may use funds for:
        • Any activity authorized under ESEA, IDEA, Perkins, or McKinney-Vento, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
        • Other activities to help with the response to COVID-19, including preparedness and response efforts, sanitation, professional development, distance learning, and others.
        • The department may reserve up to 10% of funds to subgrant to districts or state contracts for emergency needs to respond to the coronavirus as determined by the SEA and may use some funds for administration (0.5%).
    • ESSER Application  - Applications will be reviewed as they are received, with an anticipated 1 week turnaround time.
  • CARES Act Overview page with each funding stream and FAQ linked
  • CARES Act Expenditure Types vs Funding Sources
    • ​​This contains comprehensive guidance as well as FAQs about allowable expenditure types with topics ranging from technology to professional development.
  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund
    • The GEER fund provides $44 million for P-12 and higher education in Colorado. On June 4th the Governor announced his plans for the funds.
  • Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)
  • TABOR 3% Emergency Reserve
    • Pursuant to TABOR, districts can use the 3% Emergency Reserve fund "for declared emergencies only” Art. X, § 20 (5).
    • Districts and other political subdivisions have the authority to declare an emergency for purposes of accessing TABOR reserves.
    • The governor has declared a state of emergency under § 24-33.5-704 (4), C.R.S., for responding to COVID-19, which is sufficient for the State to access its own emergency reserve under § 24-77-104, C.R.S.
    • Whether it is sufficient for a district to access its TABOR reserve is a question of district fiscal policy.
  • Colorado ESEA CARES Act Fiscal Waiver - In addition to the assessment, accountability and school improvement waivers under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), CDE received approval from the Secretary of Education for waivers of the following fiscal provisions.
    • Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA so that your State educational agency (SEA) may waive, more than once every three years, if necessary, the 15 percent carryover limitation in ESEA section 1127(a) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 Title I, Part A funds.
    • Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs in which your SEA participates under its approved consolidated State plan until September 30, 2021.
    • Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA related to local educational agency (LEA) needs assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.
    • Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to content-area spending requirements for FYs 2018 and 2019 Title IV, Part A funds.
    • Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to the spending limitation for technology infrastructure for FYs 2018 and 2019 Title IV, Part A funds.
    • Section 8101(42) of the ESEA, which defines “professional development,” for activities funded for the 2019-2020 school year.
    • Transferring State- and Local-Level Funds under Section 5103 of the ESEA (PDF)
      • This document reminds states and districts of the ability to transfer some or all of your funds under certain ESEA programs into other programs and the process for transferring funds.
    • Repurposing Federal Equipment and Supplies to Combat COVID-19 (PDF)
      • This document outlines temporary flexibility for repurposing existing equipment and supplies to meet the immediate needs due to the COVID-19 national pandemic.

Additionally, there are existing funding options for formula and competitive grants that districts can leverage to meet the needs of students, including READ funds, Title 1, 21st Century, and other grants.

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Certain policy implementation may be impacted by COVID-19. In the spring of 2020, it became apparent with the timing and suspension of in-person learning, that administering the state assessments would not be feasible. As such, 2020 assessments and accountability frameworks were suspended. As the realities for the coming school year become more apparent, policy decisions will continue to be made by the legislature, governor, state board of education, or commissioner, as applicable. Some of the policies that may need adjustments are listed below:


Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.

Instructional Time Requirements

View the Resource Guides on our Pupil Count webpage. These contain information on instructional hours and October Count.


Required: An entity is legally bound to do, as required by federal or state law, executive orders, state/local public health orders, state board rule, or in the case of waivers, expectations that the state board requires in exchange for waiving a state law or rule. Executive orders and public health orders could change over the next months as we learn more about COVID-19 and receive updated epidemiological data.

October Student Count

CDE is investigating the flexibility and authority involved with the October Student Count (C.R.S. 22-54-103(10.5)(a)),, and if any adjustments may be needed if in-person instruction is suspended in October 2020. We currently believe that there is sufficient flexibility to make adjustments based on the possible scenarios for fall, but are continuing to investigate this as we talk with stakeholders.

  • Attendance/Pupil Enrollment Count Day: Under current requirements, students must be present on the pupil enrollment count date or must be present at least once prior to the count date during the current school year and present at least once within 30 days of the count date. CDE will provide additional guidance on acceptable attendance criteria, which includes but is not limited to in-person classroom attendance, remote/video classroom attendance, login to online platform, pick-up or drop-off of instructional packets, and email or phone correspondence with instructors.

Consideration: Ideas to think about as you make your own decisions.

Accountability Considerations

Accountability policy decisions are an important topic, especially in the evolving COVID environment. Accountability decisions are determined by the legislature, not CDE or the State Board, although the Board may weigh in on their perspectives. Accountability was waived in the 2019-2020 school year from a temporary Governor’s Executive Order due to the State of Emergency, and since the legislature is now back, they will be involved in these decisions moving forward.

  • Host district and school accountability committees
  • Leverage improvement planning efforts within the district and school UIP
  • Others as they arise (assessment, educator effectiveness)

Additional Resources

Planning the 20-21 School Year - Additional Resources and Tools

Health and Safety

Learning from Home

Family Connections

Additional Frameworks/Road Maps

CDE Webinars on 2020-21 Planning Framework and Toolkit

As public health orders continue to change and feedback from stakeholders is received, the Planning Framework and Toolkit will be updated. With that in mind webinar recordings and slide deck information may not represent the most up to date information located in the Planning Framework and Toolkit.June 25, 2020

Archived CDE Webinars: 2020-21 Planning Framework and Toolkit

Resources for Teachers and Administrators

Resources for Families (from CDPHE and Children’s Hospital)

How to talk with kids about their fears

Kids will have questions about coronavirus, and they are sensitive to the stress and fear of adults around them. Taking care of your stress will help kids reduce their own fear. Resources are available to help adults talk with kids about COVID-19.

Resources for Students (from CDPHE)


Acknowledgements

Thank you!

The Colorado Department of Education is incredibly thankful for the collaborative expertise and creativity of district and school leaders, in partnership with community partners, national organizations and state leadership, that assisted in the creation of the Planning the 2020-21 School Year: A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders.

The department would like to sincerely thank the leadership of the 2020-21 Planning Advisory Committee whose first-hand field experiences will be invaluable to the creation of this framework and toolkit in the months ahead.

Thank you to the students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, BOCES, district nutrition, district transportation, district technology, district curriculum and instruction, district school nurse, and district family engagement colleagues who provided thoughtful and honest feedback so that the department may best support all students, schools, and families for fall 2020.

With sincerest appreciation and gratitude, the department would like to thank our close partners who provided endless support and productive feedback throughout the process. It is their leadership and vision that accelerated the department’s ability to provide thorough guidance with research based resources.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB)
  • Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE)
  • Colorado Education Association (CEA)
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE)
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)
  • Colorado Rural Alliance
  • Colorado State Board of Education
  • Commissioner’s Rural Education Council

  • Commissioner’s Superintendents Advisory Council (CSAC)
  • Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet
  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
  • COVID-19 2020-21 School Year Advisory Committee
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
  • Governor Polis’ COVID Innovation Response Team
  • Innovation Hub at American Institutes for Research (AIR)
  • Joint Information Center (JIC)
  • Metro Denver Public Health Directors


Advisory Committee

Purpose

Bring together stakeholders to collaborate with CDE and CDPHE to vet guidance and considerations for the 2020-21 school year grounded in their experience of school during the spring of 2020 and prior. During the 2020-21 school year, the stakeholders will also collaborate with CDE to inform the development of the Learning Impacts toolkit.

The advisory committee will serve to supplement CDE’s established feedback loops with a group of diverse role individuals. In addition, a public input process will be available to obtain broader stakeholder feedback on the 2020-21 school year.


Meetings

Previous Meetings

Visit the meeting archive page for previous meeting presentations and summaries.

  • March 19, 2021
  • December 11, 2020
  • September 17, 2020
  • August 6, 2020
  • June 23, 2020
  • May 28, 2020

Members

Committee Members

  • Pat​ Bershinsky, Pikes Peak BOCES executive director
  • Nora Brown, Colorado PTA president, parent and former school board members
  • Cheryl Cook, Thompson School district title coordinator 
  • Meg Cypress, Denver Public Schools 5th grade teacher, 2019 Colorado Teacher of the Year 
  • Mitali Desai, Cherry Creek Schools student, Colorado Youth Advisory Council member  
  • Samantha DuVall, Union Colony Charter School middle school math teacher
  • Karol Gates, Colorado Springs School District 11 curriculum and instruction director
  • Chris Hinger, Pasoga Springs Middle School principal
  • Greg Jackson, Jeffco Public Schools executive director of Transportation 
  • Tammy Johnson, Uncompahgre BOCES executive director and director of special education
  • Erin Kane, Douglas County School District, American Academy executive director of schools

  • Jill Kidd, Pueblo City School director of Nutrition Services
  • Asha Mahamud, DSST Montview High School student, Colorado Youth Congress 
  • Marnie McKercher, Aurora Public School lead nurse
  • Miriam Mondragon, District 49 coordinator of Title programs
  • Patrick Mount, St. Vrain Valley Schools chief information officer
  • Nancy Olivas, Westminister Public Schools parent 
  • Susan Payne, El Paso County Emergency Operations Center member
  • Monica Peloso, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 School Board president and CASB president 
  • Wendy Rubin, Englewood School superintendent 
  • Kermit Snyder, Rocky Ford School District superintendent 

CDE Staff

  • Katy Anthes, commissioner of education
  • Sarah Blumenthal,  RN, Health and Wellness unit supervisor
  • Rhonda Haniford, associate commissioner of School Quality and Support
  • Alyssa Pearson, deputy commissioner

CDPHE Staff

  • Amy Gammel, environmental protection specialist III
  • Therese Pilonetti, unit manager


Contacts

CDE Contacts

CDE staff are available to support schools and districts in making these important decisions.


Rhonda Haniford

Associate Commissioner
haniford_r@cde.state.co.us

Sarah Blumenthal

Health and Wellness Supervisor
blumenthal_s@cde.state.co.us

Jhon Penn

Executive Director, Field Services
penn_j@cde.state.co.us


Christina Larson

Field Services Manager for the Northwest, Pikes Peak and West Central Regions
larson_c@cde.state.co.us

Denille LePlatt

Director of Rural Services
leplatt_d@cde.state.co.us