In class learning at Pueblo City School District 60 is on track to return this fall after the district’s Board of Education approved a reopening plan Thursday night by a vote of 4-to-1.
“There are real and significant consequences to not opening our schools,” superintendent Charlotte Macaluso said. “We talk a lot about promoting equity and I am concerned about those students and families who are already most marginalized. If our schools remain shuttered, there is a real risk in academic and opportunity gaps.”
Following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment, District 60’s reopening plan will give families the choice between in-person and online learning models.
The plan will also include several precautionary components to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
All staff members, K-12 students, and visitors will be required to wear masks. Pre-K students will be required to wear masks “to the degree possible,” according to the reopening plan. Social distancing will be enforced through six-foot distance markers and the rearrangement of student furniture in classrooms.
“In order to maximize their master schedules, student schedules and class assignments with the intent on balancing total classroom numbers to the extent possible,” according to the plan. “Teacher’ classroom locations, grade level, and subject locations will be assigned as necessary with larger classes/subjects being assigned to the larger classroom spaces.”
While the district’s reopening plan will make in-person learning a possibility, families will still be given the choice to enroll in a “virtual-only” learning program.
“For staffing reasons, students who choose this option will be asked to commit to a minimum of one semester of fully online learning before being allowed to transfer back to in-person learning,” according to the plan. “All parents of in-person learners will be given the option of transferring to the fully online option at semester.”
The plan also outlines measures concerning cleaning surfaces, use of water fountains only for water bottle refills, ventilation, cafeteria safety, and the management of “high aerosol” classes such as music and physical education among other measures.
While four of five board members approved the plan citing its flexibility and strict precautionary measures, school board president Taylor Voss cast the lone vote against the measure with concerns about reopening in-person classes and the escalation of COVID-19 cases.
“Since we have closed schools in March, cases in both Colorado and Pueblo have only continued to rise,” Voss said. “We have no idea how many of our students or staff will be walking into our buildings already with the virus infecting other people.”
“There is a chance we will have an outbreak and if we do, how many students, teachers, parents and grandparents will be impacted?” Voss said. “As I said during our discussions on graduation, even if one of our kids, staff or a member of their families catches the virus and passes away, I couldn’t live with myself making that decision.”
In the past week, Pueblo County saw more than 70 postive cases of COVID-19.