Cherry Creek School District announces transition to remote learning as COVID-19 numbers fail to improve

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE | The Cherry Creek School District has announced that all students will return to online learning next week, as its COVID-19 tracker reaches its ninth consecutive day below the level recommended for in-person learning.

The tracker dipped into the red zone on Nov. 4 and has yet to go back up. In a letter sent out to district families on Thursday, district superintendent Scott Siegfried said he hoped that a data dump into the Tri-County Health Department’s dashboard was causing the dip and that it would go back up, but that has not been the case.

“The data since that time is actually worse and therefore causes this move,” Siegfried said in the letter. “Our internal data continues to show that spread of the virus is minimal inside schools. However, the level of spread in the community is so significant that we are seeing increased student and staff cases coming into the schools from the community making it more difficult to operate.”

Middle and high school students will finish out this week in person and begin online learning on Wednesday, Nov. 11, with teachers being given Monday and Tuesday to prepare. Elementary and preschool students will continue in person learning through Nov. 11 and will begin online learning on Monday, Nov. 16.

Siegfried said that he hopes the online learning period will be short and that the district will be able to bring students back to the classroom soon. With public health officials voicing concerns about COVID-19 cases rising over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, it is unclear whether that hope will bear out. 

On Wednesday the U.S. reported 100,000 new COVID-19 cases, an all-time high. In Colorado, more than 3,000 new cases were reported Wednesday, a new high. The state is also seeing a record number of hospitalizations, with 894 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 according to a Thursday press conference from Gov. Jared Polis.

“We have got to take this moment and get this under control so that kids can be in school,” Siegfried told the Sentinel in a Tuesday interview. “If we don’t, collectively, then I am very worried for the rest of this year.”

In making plans to bring students back to school, the district will work to bring back elementary school students as quickly as possible and work from there, Siegfried said. The district will look for a 7-14 day period of the COVID-19 tracker being in the green to determine whether it’s safe to send students back.

“It’s critical that elementary kids are in class as much as possible,” Siegfried said.

Cherry Creek had more in-person schooling than most other districts in the area, which opened later and also brought students back more quickly after cases began rising in the fall. Siegfried said he is proud of the approach the district took.

“The data brought us back to school for 11 weeks, longer than anybody else around,” he said.

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