APS commits to online learning through 2020, Arapahoe County imposes tighter restrictions, local jury trials suspended

AURORA | A bevy of Aurora area institutions Monday evening announced various new measures to combat skyrocketing cases of COVID-19.

At the top of the ticket, Aurora Public Schools will continue online learning through winter break, the district announced Monday.

After a brief period of in-person learning, the school board voted to bring most students back to online learning after a rise in COVID-19 cases and a dip in the district’s internal decision matrix. All students except preschool and kindergarten students and some older students with specialized needs, such an English-language learners, were returned to online learning through Nov. 20. That phase will now continue until at least winter break.

“While we know that our students and staff can thrive with more in-person learning, the sustained community spread interferes with our ability to maintain the full range of our mitigation measures across all of our grades,” Superintendent Rico Munn said in a message sent to families announcing the decision.

The district plans to make it’s next decision about what school will look like after winter break by Jan. 4.

“We intend to transition back to in-person learning after winter break assuming that community transmission curbs,” Munn said.

The Cherry Creek School District also announced a return to online learning last week after its internal COVID-19 tracker dipped below the level recommended for in-person learning.

The notice from Aurora Public Schools came moments after Arapahoe County announced the state health department will impose tighter restrictions on the jurisdiction that covers nearly 90% of Aurora due to increasing cases.

The increased level on the state’s risk assessment dashboard means that nearly all commercial spaces and events will be capped at 25% capacity for the coming weeks. Restaurant volumes will not be allowed to exceed 50 people indoors, gyms will be capped at 25 people in doors and all private indoor events will be limited to 50 people, according to a news release. 

The new orders will take effect at 5 p.m. Nov. 11.  County officials will brief state officials on case counts after the new measures have been in place for about two weeks. 

“Despite our best efforts, we’ve seen a severe increase in recent COVID case numbers,” Nancy Sharpe, chair of the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our numbers are rising in ways that jeopardize our ability to keep the County open at the current levels.” 

Case counts in Arapahoe County have soared in the past month, with an increase of more than 300% to the seven-day rolling average number of cases in the county from Oct. 9 to Nov. 9, according to data from the Tri-County Health Department. The situation is slightly worse in Adams County, where the week-long average of cases currently hovers around 380. The average in Aurora’s northern county was about 100 cases over seven days at the beginning of October.

Adams County was moved to the stricter level last week. Officials there and in Denver have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, though Arapahoe County has stopped short of enacting such a measure. 

Douglas County, which covers a small portion of southeast Aurora, also moved to tighter restrictions last week, though that jurisdiction’s level remains lower than both Adams and Arapahoe on the state’s assessment scale. 

Earlier in the day, state and municipal courts serving Aurora announced that all jury trials will be postponed until next year. Both the Aurora Municipal Court and the 18th Judicial District, which covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties, suspended trials until Jan. 18, 2021.