Cherry Creek schools reach warning level on COVID-19 school safety index

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AURORA | The Cherry Creek School District has reached a warning level on its COVID tracker indicating whether it’s safe for students to be in classrooms, and if conditions do not improve may have to return to remote learning.

The district is using a 12-point decision matrix to determine school safety, with six factors tracked on a zero to two scale. If the total is at seven or above it is safe to have in person learning, at five or below the district must go to remote learning.

The district is currently at level six, at which point the district is supposed to discuss the trend with the Tri-County Health Department and prepare for potentially having to return to remote learning.

COVID tracking score for Cherry Creek schools district from Oct. 15, 2020. For the first time since reopening in-class schools, the district has moved to a “6” indicating caution and possible cessation of in-person learning if conditions affecting the scores deteriorate.

The district is concerned about the indicator, spokesperson Abbe Smith told the Sentinel in an email.

“We will continue to monitor for a 7-14 day sustained trend in the data and will consult with Tri-County Health Department about potential actions if the data does not improve,” Smith said.

A representative from Tri-County could not immediately be reached for comment.

The score is largely being driven by COVID-19 rates in Arapahoe County, which have continued to rise over the past several weeks. The Arapahoe County daily COVID-19 case rate and 14-day incidence rate both garnered scores of zero, and daily hospitalizations and tests administered in the past two weeks earned scores of one.

The county has a 7-day rolling average of 93.1 daily new cases, according to Tri-County, and a 14-day incidence rate of 176.2 per 100,000 people. ICU beds in the county are currently 83.6% full.

According to district data, there are currently 16 Cherry Creek students and six staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Cherry Creek students are currently on fall break and are scheduled to return Oct. 19.

The neighboring district, Aurora Public Schools, is also on a “watch status” after its matrix dipped below the level indicating it was safe to have in-person school. The district will make a decision by Oct. 22 as to whether it will return to remote learning.