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Citing numerous safety and health concerns from staff, teachers, parents, and students, the Pueblo District 70 Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to start the school year remotely, officials said in a news release.

The decision was made during a virtual board meeting Tuesday evening in which members approved the Remote Start option for D70 schools.

District students will start Aug. 24 with online learning for four weeks. Students will then transition on Sept. 21, depending on local COVID-19 positive case conditions, into a hybrid system with half of the student population reporting in person on Monday and Tuesday, and the remaining half reporting Wednesday and Thursday, according to details in the news release.

That schedule will continue through Oct. 8 with the possibility of in-person classes as soon as Oct. 12, if local positive daily COVID-19 cases average two or fewer for two weeks, according to the Board of Education. Changes in local and regional pandemic conditions, or changes from state orders, could require adjustments to the program, the news release stated.

“Parents and students can remain in the remote online learning mode for as long as they need during this pandemic,” District 70 Public Information Officer Todd Seip said. “We know some students will be ready to return to our hybrid and in-person classes, and some will want to continue learning remotely. We can accommodate both.”

Benefits of the hybrid system is that only half of the students will be in classrooms, lunchrooms or on buses at any time, officials said, reducing the number of students gathering together.

More specific information about the remote learning and hybrid schedule will be sent to parents and teachers next week.

“We will allow those students who receive special services to access our buildings as they and their parents feel comfortable,” Student Services Director Greg Keasling said. Those students will be contacted by their school instructors and case workers to set-up in-person teaching schedules. 

District Athletic Director and Chief Financial Officer TJ Vinci recommended that fall sports and other activities continue following the strict guidelines that the District and state high school athletic associations have in place, according to the release.

Teachers have been pushing back on rushing students back into the classroom this fall even as President Donald Trump and others advocate for fully opening schools. Some teachers at Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs started a petition asking the district for a virtual re-opening in the fall.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes said the state guidance for districts to decide how to reopen would be based on the same three levels of protocols listed by the governor for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic: Stay at Home, Safer at Home and Protect Your Neighbors.

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Watch the Board of Education meeting.

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