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Cheyenne Mountain High School. (Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain School District)

Cheyenne Mountain School District 12's middle and high schools will shift to online learning for the remainder of the fall semester after Thanksgiving break, joining the growing number of area districts that have made similar changes, according to an email sent to families and staff.

District Superintendent Walter Cooper made the announcement Thursday after a teleconference meeting with El Paso County public health officials on Wednesday.

“Obviously, our preference would be to continue in-person instruction at all levels,” Cooper wrote, noting that he delayed his decision for as long as possible. However, state-mandated quarantine and contact tracing protocols have made traditional classroom instruction next to impossible, he said.

The district plans to resume in-person learning for elementary school students on Nov. 30, Cooper wrote, citing lower transmission risk and easier contact tracing as chief reasons for letting grade-schoolers back into the classroom.

Most middle school and high school students will continue remote learning until sometime after the winter break, according to Cooper. The risk of transmission is greater with older students and individual classrooms are impossible to effectively cohort or quarantine, the superintendent said.

Cooper said the school buildings will remain open to allow staff to teach remotely from their classrooms, and that some small cohort groups will receive “very limited” in-person instruction.

All sports and extracurricular activities will be suspended until mid-January, Cooper said.

The health department did not specify what learning format schools will employ when the winter break ends in January, he said, but they will likely begin the spring semester remotely while health officials re-assess infection levels to determine if they have been affected by holiday gatherings and travel.

“We will continue these discussions with El Paso County Public Health officials at our next scheduled meeting on December 2, and hopefully will have a much better understanding of this scenario after that date,” Cooper wrote.

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