Denver Public Schools will close all schools in the state’s largest district beginning Monday through April 6 to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, district officials said Thursday night.
School will take place as scheduled Friday, but DPS is moving spring break up to begin Monday. The extended spring break will continue until April 6, with students returning April 7.
All DPS school buildings will be open Monday and Tuesday to give “give families more time to come into school buildings and get what they need for the extra time off,” officials said. All school buildings will be closed Wednesday through April 3, when the buildings will be disinfected before workers return April 6.
School district officials, including Superintendent Susana Cordova and Jennifer Bacon, director of District 4 DPS Board of Education, released information at a 7 p.m. news conference at the district’s downtown Denver headquarters on Lincoln Street.
“It is a really difficult decision to make,” Cordova said of the district-wide shutdown. “Our goal and hope is part of an effort to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.”
Dr. William Burman, director of Denver Public Health, who has been working closely with the school district said there’s evidence of “community spreading” within the district, in which coronavirus is sourced from “people who didn’t travel.”
“Social distancing” and keeping large numbers of students apart is all part of a broader set of policies to help contain the coronavirus, Burman said. “These are challenging times.”
The district worked with its Board of Education, Denver officials, Denver Department of Public Health, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and other organizations in making the decision, Cordova said.
All before- and after-school care, including Discovery Link, will be idled by the action. “Our goal is to discourage large group gatherings,” Cordova said.
During the closure, DPS students will be able to get free meals at eight locations in a “grab-and-go” system. The locations for the food program are:
School officials are still exploring what the closure means for the school calendar — seating days — and how it will affect local and state assessment testing.
“We are still monitoring what this will mean for the school year and are continuing to look into what this will look like moving ahead,” Cordova said. “We will share more information as soon as it’s available.”
Meanwhile, Jeffco Public Schools announced Thursday that it will “join several other Colorado school districts in closing all school facilities” next week. Spring break in Jeffco is March 23 through March 27.
On Monday, families in Jeffco can pick up items such as supplies, medication and electronics that were left behind. Students and families are encouraged, however, to secure such items on Friday if possible.
“During next week, Jeffco Public Schools will transition to a ‘Remote Learning and Work Plan,’ ” the district said in statement. “Students will work with their teachers to continue instruction from home during this period. A detailed message will be sent to families (Friday) morning outlining the remote learning plan and expectations.”
Jeffco school officials will decide during the week of spring break when classes will resume.
Also Thursday, the Cherry Creek School District announced it will close all of its schools, as well as its day care facilities, Friday through March 27 “to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The Boulder Valley School District announced it will close all of its schools beginning Friday through the end of its spring break, on March 29.
The 27J district in Brighton announced it will suspend classes at all of its schools, effective immediately, through March 27. The decision came after Tri-County Health directed the district to close Riverdale Ridge High School and Reunion Elementary “due to a presumptive positive result for coronavirus.”
And Aurora Public Schools has extended its spring break an additional week to slow the spread of coronavirus. Those students will be off Monday through March 27.
The Gunnison Watershed School District was Colorado’s first district to suspend classes, canceling school at its seven institutions for the next two weeks starting Friday to reduce the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, officials announced Thursday.
The moves by K-12 school districts on Thursday follow a flurry of Colorado higher education institutions — and universities across the country — announcing transitions to remote learning this week as the highly contagious new coronavirus causes mass event closures, budget concerns and lifestyle alterations.
For days, school districts across the state have been suspending after-school activities, clubs, events and sports.
On Thursday, three Denver elementary schools were closed after family members of children attending the schools tested positive. Officials said the schools would be thoroughly disinfected during the closures and the children of impacted family members would be tested for the respiratory virus.
The Denver district said the schools would be thoroughly disinfected during the closure.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis ordered schools close for 72 hours for disinfection if a student or staff member tests positive. Multiple cases of COVID-19 could require a school to close for 14 days, he added.
Earlier in the week, Denver Public Schools officials said the district was finalizing a plan to provide options for students to learn remotely if necessary. Key components would include ensuring access to technology, home internet and leveraging the district-supported online learning platform, said Lauren Durkee, director of special projects in the Department of Technology Services.
The plan looked at using smartphones to work remotely whenever possible as the phones were believed to be more readily available than other technologies.
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