Cherry Creek chief hints at ending in-person classes as COVID-19 infections rise across the region

7898
Masks on message at Mission Viejo Elementary School in Aurora. PHOTO BY PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

GREENWOOD VILLAGE | As the Cherry Creek School District’s internal COVID-19 dashboard reached its seventh day below the level recommended for in-person learning on Tuesday, the district is telling families to be ready for a potential return to online learning.

The district tracks six health measures related to COVID-19 pulled from Tri-County Health Department data on a 0-2 scale for a total of 12 points. A score of five or below indicates that the district should be in the remote learning phase.

Since Wednesday, the district has been at a five or a four. The district is currently still having students learn in person with a hybrid model, and has said it needs one to two weeks of a metrics trend to make a change in either direction.

Cherry Creek schools COVID-19 tracker dashboard for Nov. 3,, 2020.

The district has said that a data dump into the Tri-County Health Department’s website is partially responsible for the low numbers, which will affect the 14-day incidence rate until Nov. 9. However, the county’s COVID-19 rate has been rising along with regions across the state, prompting tighter health regulations and returns to remote learning throughout the metro area.

“We are close to reaching a level of concern that would cause us to make a switch from in-person learning to remote learning,” district superintendent Scott Siegfried said in a message sent to families on Tuesday. “In my conversations with public health officials, it appears this surge in COVID cases is going to continue to rise in the coming days and weeks. Therefore, I am asking teachers to ensure students take home schoolwork and supplies this week, in the event I make a call to switch to remote learning.”

Siegfried said he will continue to monitor the data and may make a decision this week. If the district does switch to remote learning it will join districts across the metro area, including Aurora Public Schools and Denver Public Schools, in removing students from classrooms after COVID-19 rates rose again.

The only two measures in the green are the CCSD staff and student incident rates, which are tracked by the school district and not Tri-County. However, it is unclear how many students and staff are regularly tested.

The district does not regularly test students, but it does offer tests to students who are not able to get one from a healthcare provider, district spokesperson Abbe Smith told the Sentinel. She did not know the percentage of staff who are tested through COVIDCheck Colorado, because some are repeats and the numbers change each week.

Tri-County does not have any involvement in the procurement of that data, and when asked by the Sentinel if the green level was an accurate indication of the prevalence of COVID-19 among students and staff or just a result of low testing, a spokesperson said “there is no way for us to know.” The department does not track whether cases are connected to a school district.

According to Tri-County, Adams County had a three-day average of 252.3 new COVID cases and Arapahoe County of 223.7 new cases as of Monday.

As of Nov. 3, 20 students and 19 staff members are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, and 521 students and 100 staff members are in quarantine, along with 19 students and one staff member who were moved to remote learning for operational reasons.