Back to School 2020: What Golden should expect as classes resume

City held community meeting with school leaders on Aug. 12

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/19/20

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of community life since its arrival in Colorado, there have been few questions that have generated more concern and consternation than …

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Back to School 2020: What Golden should expect as classes resume

City held community meeting with school leaders on Aug. 12

Posted

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of community life since its arrival in Colorado, there have been few questions that have generated more concern and consternation than those of when and how to reopen schools.

But now, after a summer filled with uncertainty and rethinking, schools ranging from Mitchell and Shelton elementary schools to Colorado School of Mines are set — at least for now — to welcome back students in the next few weeks.

With the uncertainty around reopening, the city of Golden held a virtual community meeting on Aug. 12, at which leaders of Golden schools detailed their current plans for reopening.

Here is a look at some of the key things the community needs to know as Golden embarks on a school year that is already sure to be unlike any other in memory.

Jefferson County Public Schools

Students will be learning in-person and online

Families with students in all grade levels were given the choice of whether their student will ultimately attend school remotely or in-person—although that choice looked different depending on the grades. The plan is for elementary school students whose families did choose for them to attend in-person to do so 100% of the time with students staying together in small cohorts that administrators hope will help reduce the spread.

Middle and high school students who did not choose the 100% remote option will attend school in-person and online on alternating days in order to reduce the number of students in school buildings at one time. However, all students will start school online on Aug. 24 with in-person learning starting on Sept. 8 after a week of orientations meant to introduce students to the new environment.

Golden High School Principal Brian Conway said roughly 300 of the school’s 1,420 students have opted for online learning, which means there will be about 550 students in the building at any different time.

Getting around will be different

In an effort to reduce the amount of contact between students, there will be new rules governing how students can access and move around schools. At Golden High, freshman and sophomores will enter and exit the school through the main doors while juniors and seniors will come in and out through different entrances at other places in the building. The hallways have all been “one-way”.

Some schools, including Shelton Elementary, do not allow for one-way hallways and hallways there will remain two way. However, Shelton Principal Darby Brady said efforts are still being made to decrease the risk of contact between students. One such strategy will involve having students spend a great deal more time outside than they have in the past.

Mental health will be a focus

Conway said schools will go through something of a “soft-start” academically as students come back so that staff can focus on tending to student’s mental health needs and building connections and community in this new environment. To that end, all Jeffco teachers read a book about trauma sensitive schools to help them prepare for the return to school and addressing student needs as well as their own.

One important part of that will be addressing the losses students will feel over the course of this abnormal school year.

“This year’s high school kids won’t have a Homecoming assembly and parade,” Conway said. “Now it’s our turn to create new memories and new opportunities for these kids but we have to do that by attending to their mental health. We have a solid academic plan but that doesn’t work if we aren’t attending to their mental health.”

Patience will be a key — because there are no “good options” available

Outgoing Jeffco Public Schools superintendent Jason Glass said it is important for the community to recognize that every option around school this year had a significant downside.

Just as it would be irresponsible to bring all students back without proper precautions, Glass said it would be similarly irresponsible to go 100% virtual as virtual learning did not work for many students in the spring and has been shown to reinforce existing inequities.

“We ask for patience,” Glass said. “We are being very thoughtful about this, we are paying a lot of attention to the data and how the virus is moving in our community and we will have to continue to do that. There are going to be challenges with any of the choices we have before us.”

Colorado School of Mines

Regular testing encouraged but not required

A new testing site is set to open on campus on Friday, March 14, that will be capable of conducting 60-180 tests per hour. Students are being encouraged, but not required, to get tested after arriving on-campus and every two weeks after that. The school has also implemented a new reporting system that will allow students to quickly report when they are ill.

Mines to limit campus crowding but most classes will be in-person

The majority of undergraduate classes, about 60%, will be held in-person. However, Mines is also offering remote classes and classes that are a hybrid between remote and online participation (in-person classes will also be taped).

Gary Bowersock, Mines associate vice president of infrastructure and operations, said Mines is also trying to minimize the number of staff on campus.

“We are certainly bringing back the staff that we need to provide services to all of our students but we are really trying to minimize the amount of staff that we have on campus,” he said. “Those that can continue to work remote will do that or very much in a hybrid fashion.”

Trying to safely offer parts of campus life

Although most intercollegiate fall sports are postponed until spring, Mines will be offering rec sports and other activities with safety protocols in place. The rec center will also be open at a limited capacity with distancing protocols.

In addition, the school will be installing four or five event tents to provide students with outdoor spaces to eat and socialize more safely outside with shade.

“We are looking at other opportunities as the weather changes of how we will deal with inclement weather plans and those kinds of things,” said Bowersock. “We are looking at our field house and other venues where we can offer seating indoors.”

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