Feb. 24—Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley secondary students can return to four days a week of in person classes after spring break, both school districts announced Tuesday.
Boulder Valley officials announced the decision at Tuesday's school board meeting, about a week earlier than planned. St. Vrain Valley, which previously committed to more in-person time if certain requirements were met, sent a letter to families Tuesday letting them know about the upcoming change. Families also will continue to have the option to stay remote only.
Both districts' secondary schools now are using a hybrid model, with students attending two days in person and joining their classes remotely from home the other two days. In Boulder Valley, all students learn independently on Mondays to give teachers time to plan. In St. Vrain, students learn independently on Fridays.
Officials said they're expanding in-person learning for middle and high school students because case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in Boulder and Broomfield counties, while teachers and other educators are getting vaccinated faster than previously expected.
"We have great news tonight," Boulder Valley Superintendent Rob Anderson said.
All of Boulder Valley's estimated 5,000 eligible employees have received their first dose of the vaccine or been invited to receive their first dose, according to the school district. So far, about 70% have received at least one dose.
All student-facing employees who want the vaccine are expected to be fully vaccinated — defined as two weeks after receiving the second dose — before spring break. All staff members who want the vaccine, including those teaching remotely after receiving health exemptions and in non-student-facing roles, are expected to be fully vaccinated by April 3.
In St. Vrain Valley, about 94% of teachers and staff members have received or had the opportunity to schedule a vaccination appointment, according to the district, and most are expected to receive their second dose before spring break.
Once fully vaccinated, teachers will no longer be required to quarantine if there's an exposure at school. Protective measures, such as wearing masks, will continue.
Since Boulder Valley students returned in January, 77% of elementary students, 74% of middle school students and 67% of high school students are attending in person, district officials said. Of the 1,150 students and staff members placed in quarantine because of exposure to a positive case at school, only six tested positive for COVID-19 — amounting to .5% cases of spread in schools.
Margaret Crespo, Boulder Valley area superintendent, said the district is "very comfortable, very confident" that the protective measures at schools are working to prevent in-school transmission.
Boulder Valley plans to continue the four-day-a-week schedule through the end of the school year. On Mondays, the district is providing some additional supports, including high school study halls and in-person tutoring at five elementary schools.
In St. Vrain, Superintendent Don Haddad said "thousands" of middle and high school students already are attending four days a week because of low in-person class sizes because classmates stayed online only.
St. Vrain allows middle and high school students to attend study hall sessions at their schools on Fridays. After spring break, that Friday option will be extended to elementary students through "open library days," according to district officials.
Fridays will continue to be an independent learning day so teachers have time to plan and support students who are learning online only while also teaching students in-person, according to district officials. In the fall, the plan is to return to a traditional five-day school week.