LITTLETON, CO — Littleton Public Schools issued an update Friday on back-to-school plans after the district announced it is postponing the first day of school until Aug. 24. Classes were previously scheduled to begin Aug. 13.
Littleton Public Schools will offer in-person and remote learning for the fall term. In a letter to parents and community members, LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert said the "return to in-person learning is good for our children academically, socially, and emotionally."
"The decision was not taken lightly and was based on research, recommendations of health officials, the findings and work of the LPS Restart Task Force, and the plans of other school districts locally and across the nation," Ewert's letter read.
Ewert offered the following reasons for the delayed start date:
Tri-County Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment need more time to finalize and communicate their protocols for schools, which include testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and temporary shifts to distance learning when outbreaks occur. "It is critical that we understand these protocols and have plans in place to keep our students and staff safe before we welcome students and staff back to school for in-person learning," Ewert said.
The district needs more time to complete the hiring and training process for teachers selected to teach in the online program to best meet the needs of families, once the district knows how many students will choose the online program.
The district, school leaders and teachers need more time to prepare all the classrooms and school spaces for physical distancing, which includes removing furniture, posting signage, and disinfecting, all according to the most recent guidance of local health officials.
Teachers and school leaders need more time to prepare to shift in and out of "a more robust distance learning model should schools need to do so," the district said.
Parents need additional time to consider their options for student learning (at school or online). Parents will receive information early next week about the Temporary Online Program for Students - the LPS online program, the district said. "Parents will also receive communication from principals and program leaders in early August with details specific to each school," Ewert said.
"We understand that changing the start date may cause confusion and frustration in our community," Ewert's letter read.
"However, at this time we believe starting school August 24 will help us better prepare to begin in-person learning more successfully."
The superintendent also issued the following guidelines:
Masks and Health Screenings
All staff and all students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade including Transition Services will be required to wear masks with breaks throughout the day. At this time, students are expected to provide their own masks. If a mask is left at home, one will be provided. Health officials say that mask-wearing protects teachers and other adults in the building as much as it protects the students.
Preschool students will not be required to wear masks at this time, but they will be learning how to wear them at school in a developmentally appropriate way. More details will be provided to preschool families soon.
Additional information will be communicated to families whose students may need special accommodations regarding mask wearing.
All students and staff will have a daily health screening. This will be differentiated by level and will include self-screening and screening by school staff.
Physical distancing guidelines within a school setting are different than those out in the community.
Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students maintain 3 to 6 feet of distance or to the degree possible while in the classroom, if students and staff members are wearing masks and are symptom free.
The Learning Environment
Classroom furniture will be arranged to maintain recommended 3 to 6 feet physical distancing as much as possible.
Student movement around the school throughout the day will be planned and organized to maintain physical distancing and minimize transitions as much as possible, with fewer students in hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, food serving lines, and on playgrounds at the same time.
All school front entries and classrooms will have sanitation stations that students and staff will use when they arrive at school, before lunch, before recess, and as needed throughout the day. Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom and in every space in every school. Dispensers will be checked nightly and refilled.
All areas inside schools, as well as playgrounds, will be cleaned and sanitized (following the protocols of local health officials) as frequently as possible.
Drinking fountains will not be used. Students are expected to bring their own water bottle to school. Every school will have at least one bottle filling station (most have several). Times to refill water bottles at these stations will be scheduled into the day to maintain physical distancing.
Signage on walls and stickers on floors will help students maintain physical distancing.
Ventilation systems have been serviced and will be frequently checked to make sure indoor spaces are properly ventilated.
In an effort to limit exposure, and as a general rule, parents and visitors will not be allowed in schools during the school day at this time. Each school will develop a process where parents and/or visitors may drop off materials that students need.
Field trips, travel, and large gatherings such as assemblies will not be scheduled at this time.
Current guidance from health officials limits ridership to maintain appropriate physical distancing. More details will be provided soon.
Buses will be cleaned after each route before a new group of students is transported in accordance with the guidance from health officials.
Students will need to practice physical distancing at bus stops. We ask parents to help us in this effort.
Please keep in mind that as a result of our limited ability to provide bus transportation due to physical distancing requirements, it will be necessary for significantly more parents to transport their students to and from school.
Parents will receive more information soon from LPS Transportation about how bus ridership will be determined.
Students whose families qualify for free/reduced lunch will have priority.
Students who require special transportation per their individual Education Program (IEP) will be provided transportation with health measures in place.
Plans will be in place at each school to keep students safe and physically distanced as much as possible when they arrive and enter the school, and when they leave at the end of the day.
Physical distancing will be practiced during meal service. Schools will utilize cafeteria space, outdoor spaces, and possibly other locations in the school including the classrooms for meal service.
This change in meal service will help us keep the same students together in smaller groups as much as possible (cohort grouping) to limit exposure.
Nutrition Services employees will be masked, with face shields, and will wear gloves.
Meal service areas will be cleaned throughout the day.
Improved Distance Learning
If a virus outbreak requires the closure of the district, individual schools, or affects specific groups of students, we will be ready to serve students in an improved distance learning environment. Teachers will receive additional training through the new online LPS Educator Academy, which will help them implement best practices and provide consistency for students within schools and across the district. Training will be provided for families through the new online LPS Family Academy, which will help family members know how to support their children as they learn at home. These training platforms will be available in early August, and details about how to access them will be provided at that time.
Schools and Programs Will Provide More Details in Early August
We know you have many additional questions and are eager for additional details. School leaders will communicate with families and staff at the beginning of August to outline additional details specific to their schools or programs.
Temporary Online Program for Students (TOPS)
LPS will also provide a fully online school program for K-12 and Transition Services students during the 2020-21 school year only as an alternative to attending school in-person.
This is a separate, virtual program that is not connected to the student’s home school, but is supported by licensed teachers from LPS schools.
TOPS is primarily designed for students who are either health compromised and COVID-vulnerable themselves or those who have family members who are. It is also available to families who simply do not feel comfortable sending their students back to in-person school at this time.
There will be specific guidelines and timeframes outlining when students can return to their home school for in-person learning.
Families should consider the social and emotional impact on their child, the student’s desire and ability to do online learning, and the availability of adults to help and support the student at home.
Students in TOPS will be able to participate in before- and after-school extracurricular activities at their home school.
Students in TOPS will not be able to participate in any in-person classes at their home school during the school day.
More details about TOPS and registration information will be sent to parents early the week of July 20th.
The TOPS program begins August 31.
School Age Child Care (SACC) will resume with the start of school on August 24. Likewise, preschool extended day options that include child care will resume with the start of school on August 24.
>> To learn more, visit: Restart LPS 20-21