Two more Colorado Springs school districts announced Wednesday they will be going to online learning after Thanksgiving break through the end of the year, citing difficulties in keeping schools open as more staff enter quarantine.
Colorado Springs School District 11, the region's second largest district, and Harrison School District 2, in southeast Colorado Springs, will resume in-person learning after the start of 2021, if conditions allow, the districts said in separate news releases Wednesday.
With the sometimes deadly virus surging in the region and state, "we have no choice but to move into a districtwide remote instructional model," Superintendent Michael Thomas wrote in a Wednesday afternoon email to families.
Hybrid and in-person models have become "unsustainable," given a "significant increase" in staff and student quarantines, he wrote. "We simply don't have enough staff or substitutes to keep our schools open for in-person learning much longer."
To-go meals will continue to be available during the in-person closure, he added.
District 2 "is experiencing the same challenges as other school districts with COVID-19 on the rise in the community," it said in its release. "When positive cases lead to students/staff needing to quarantine for 10-14 days, those ... absences greatly impact the in-person learning environment."
The district believes it must do its part "to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community to protect students, staff, and their families," the release added.
The district also will continue to provide grab-and-go meals.
Falcon School District 49 on Friday became the first Pikes Peak region district to shut down in-person classes, announcing that beginning Monday, all instruction would be remote through the end of the year.
District 49 made the decision due to "deteriorating public health conditions and the resulting impact on normal operations," the district said in a news release Friday.
On Wednesday Pueblo School District 70 announced it would move classes online beginning Thursday through the remainder of the year, citing "the staggering upward climb of positive COVID cases throughout the city and county."
"I do believe we have approached a point where this has become overwhelming, for the building staff, building administration, nurses and central office," Director of Student Services Greg Keasling said in a press release from the district. "We are short subs ... which is leaving us short of human beings in front of students."
While the district had hoped to continue to offer in-person learning the rest of the week and potentially the following week, "exposure calls continue to flood the COVID response team office," the district said in the release, adding that nearly 6,000 students were in remote learning on Wednesday due to exposure or potential exposure to the sometimes deadly virus.
Statewide, approximately 18% of elementary students are in remote learning, 20% in hybrid learning and 63% attending classes, Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said Wednesday at a state Board of Education meeting, held virtually.
Approximately 30% of middle and high school students are in remote learning, 30% in hybrid learning and 26% attending learning in person, she said, adding that most students who were attending remotely as of that morning were doing so by choice.
"Districts are making decisions as we speak because of the increase in cases," she said. "We're back in a moment where things are changing quick."
At least 5,698 students and employees at Pikes Peak region schools are in quarantine or isolation this week because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to public health officials and area school districts.
Additionally, a new school-based outbreak at a school not associated with a particular district was added to the county's list this week: Colorado Springs Charter Academy, with two cases reported Nov. 2.
The Gazette on Wednesday contacted the region's nine largest school districts seeking information about the impact of COVID-19 on students and staff. Schools must report suspected and confirmed outbreaks to their local public health agency or the state health department within four hours. Not all districts and schools report positive test results or potential positives to the public.
Academy School District 20 currently has 15 positive cases, with 95 total this year. It has 165 students and/or staff in isolation and 3,301 in quarantine. It currently has two separate outbreaks at Pine Creek High School. It has 10 schools currently in modified operations. See the district dashboard at https://asd20-covid-19-dashboard.netlify.app for more information.
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 did not respond Wednesday ahead of press time with all requested data. It has had 37 positive cases this year. It currently has one outbreak at Cheyenne Mountain High School, comprised of nine cases, per the county website. Cheyenne Mountain Junior High and Gold Camp Elementary School are in remote learning for two weeks, and Cheyenne Mountain High School's remote learning was extended for an additional two weeks, for a total of four weeks, according to Superintendent Walt Cooper. See the district's coronavirus dashboard at https://www.cmsd12.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=12330772&pageId=15394092.
Colorado Springs School District 11, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, Lewis Palmer School District 38, Widefield School District 3, Falcon School District 49 and Manitou Springs School District 14 did not respond Wednesday ahead of press time to requests for data. Most of these districts have some COVID-related data online via dashboards. District 8 was closed for Veterans Day. Harrison School District 2 responded, referring The Gazette to its dashboard, but providing no data.