FRISCO — Summit School District is temporarily suspending in-person learning at Summit High School due to several groups being quarantined in recent days.
Students will return to online-only learning at the high school Tuesday, Oct. 27, as they make their way back from fall break. Officials intend to bring students and teachers back into the building beginning Nov. 9.
“It’s never easy to make these kinds of decisions, but the health and safety of our students and staff is most important to us,” said Mikki Grebetz, a spokesperson for the school district. “… We do recognize that this will be a hardship for families and disappointing for all those scholars who want to be in school learning. We also think that being in person and being together is good for their social and emotional health, and we hope to continue in-person instruction throughout the school year. But it will take our whole community working together to keep our schools open.”
The school district announced the move in a Sunday, Oct. 25, letter addressed to families and staff, which noted that the decision was made with the support of the district’s Board of Education in alignment with the “return to learn” plan and in consultation with the Summit County Public Health Department. All extracurricular activities and athletics also will be virtual over the next two weeks.
The Summit High School football team is the only fall sport still competing but is on a two-week quarantine of its own.
Earlier this month, the district made changes to its COVID-19 policies, beginning to publicly report information about students and staff members being quarantined due to positive novel coronavirus cases, possible exposures and individuals showing symptoms.
A total of 15 quarantines have been announced since the district began listing them Oct. 14. To date, Summit High School has been hit the hardest with nine of those quarantines, followed by Summit Middle School (two), Upper Blue Elementary School (two), Frisco Elementary School (one) and Silverthorne Elementary School (one). Five new quarantines were reported at the high school just this weekend, with three announced Saturday and two more announced Sunday, all as a result of positive COVID-19 cases.
Grebetz said the temporary closure of the school for in-person learning was meant to serve two purposes: to curb the transmission of COVID-19 in the building while the county’s public health department continues its investigation and to ensure consistency in learning for students.
“Nine quarantines in our school poses a difficulty in providing instruction to students in person and online at the same time for synchronous learning,” Grebetz said. “It’s difficult for staff to be able to equitably teach those children who are in different locations. … To provide consistent learning for all, it was just best to move to this online-learning model at this time.”
Students and teachers already should be well equipped to handle the transition back into full-time online learning. The district successfully completed the first quarter of the school year using hybrid methods, alternating cohorts of students with in-person and remote learning on different days. And Grebetz said district officials are assessing how to best reopen once the two-week closure ends.
“We’re always learning more about COVID,” Grebetz said. “It is an evolving situation, and we’re learning more every day and reassessing our processes and protocols to assure staff and scholars are safe and healthy within our buildings.”
Grebetz also emphasized that the district’s guidance from the Colorado Department of Health & Environment is based in part on the county’s overall COVID-19 metrics and said staff is counting on the entire community to do their part to help keep schools open.
According to Summit County public health officials, the six primary strategies to contain COVID-19 are wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing, physical distancing, staying home when sick, getting tested for COVID-19 if symptomatic and getting a flu shot.
“Our school guidance is based on the number of cases within our whole community, not just in our schools,” Grebetz said. “We are expecting to return on Nov. 9, so hopefully people can help be ambassadors with their friends and in the community to remember to do those six ‘commitments to containment’ and to reiterate that we all have the power to keep schools open. We all need to remember to take those necessary steps and to be mindful of our interactions with the community.”