School bus.jpg (copy)

A student exits a District 11 school bus in this undated file photo.

Two of Colorado Springs' largest school districts plan to expand in-person learning for the final quarter of the school year, representatives announced this week.

Colorado Springs District 11 plans to return to full-time in-person learning for all students starting March 10. Academy District 20 plans to bring middle and high school students back to in-person classes four-days a week starting March 15.

The decision to shift to in-person learning comes as COVID-19 cases in Colorado generally decline and the number of people vaccinated increases daily, with 333,859 Coloradans fully vaccinated.

However, El Paso County does not meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's criteria for opening schools in-person full-time. The CDC recommends that total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days remain below 49 for full in-person operation of schools. El Paso County saw 123 new cases during the past seven days. Thus, per the CDC, elementary schools in the county should operate in hybrid mode, and middle and high schools operate virtually, generally.

District 11 defended its move Friday, saying the state's COVID-19 transmission rate was lower than many states, and that its vaccination rate was higher. District 20 also defended its decision, saying that the district was following state guidance, which recommends in person learning for areas such as El Paso County that are categorized as "level yellow" on the state's COVID-19 dial. The state's dial suggests in-person learning at most levels and allows in-person learning at all levels, even if a county was to shift to a localized "stay at home order" due to breached hospital capacity.

K-12 parents in both districts can continue to opt for the remote learning model, if they choose, although there may be some modifications for District 11 students who continue with remote learning. For instance, online students in District 11 may be consolidated into one class.

Specific details on the transition will be provided to families once the plans are finalized among the District 11's administration, District 11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby said.

El Paso County Public Health department did not immediately responded to The Gazette's request for comment.

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