First, we must say congratulations to La Plata County! Our residents are currently at a vaccination rate of 73% of people ages 12 and older with at least one COVID vaccine. We exceeded the county vaccination goal of greater than 70%. While this is great progress, we are weighing changing health guidelines for schools in light of the more contagious delta variant presence in our community.
As you read the following, please know our primary goal is to keep students in school as much as possible and maintain a consistent learning environment within each classroom. The following goes into effect on your child’s first day of school.
Here are some of the highlights from the plan:
- The current guidance from San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) states that P-12 schools are advised to require face coverings for all persons in indoor school settings, in alignment with CDC guidance. The Durango Board of Education approved the revision to the dress code policy, which does extend the mask requirement for students indoors unless otherwise permitted. Therefore, at this time, masks are required inside our schools.
- Masks will be required on school buses per federal law.
- The district will work with SJBPH to support contact tracing and target quarantines as deemed necessary from the health department.
- Fully vaccinated individuals will be exempt from quarantine, unless otherwise directed by SJBPH.
- Schools will operate a regular 5-day school week, with in-person instruction and no cohorting.
- Symptom screens will still be required for students and staff daily.
- Limited guests/visitors will be permitted on secondary campuses, pending following outlined guidelines. There will be no guests/visitors on elementary campuses at this time.
- 9-R will continue to emphasize cleaning and disinfection procedures.
Please keep in mind, these protocols could change and become more relaxed or restrictive, depending on executive orders and COVID conditions in our community throughout the school year.
To optimize student access to in-person learning while at the same time promoting health and safety by minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
UPDATED CDPHE GUIDANCE
The current CDPHE guidance is shifting from a case-based approach to a population-based approach for counties that qualify based upon vaccination rates and transmission rates. The primary difference is that:
- In a population-based approach when an individual with COVID-19 is identified, the individual would isolate, but there would be no contact tracing nor quarantine.
- Fewer mitigation strategies would be utilized fostering a more ‘normal’ feel to the school year (see table for details)
Qualifying Criteria for a Population-based approach:
- Schools in counties with high vaccination rates (>70% of individuals >12 yrs of age) -OR- schools that can verify that they have a high vaccination rate (>70% of the student body)
- Schools in counties with low case rates (<35/100,000 7 day cumulative case rate)
Emphasis on limiting quarantine
Although we plan on implementing a population based approach as noted above, there may be circumstances (such as outbreaks or high community transmission rates) where we are directed by local health authorities to quarantine.
In these cases, the following individuals would be exempt from quarantine:
- Fully vaccinated individuals
- Unvaccinated individuals who are engaged in weekly testing and remain negative
UPDATED DURANGO SCHOOL DISTRICT 9-R PROTOCOLS
Durango School District has modified district COVID-19 protocols based upon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s new guidance for schools and in consultation with the San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH). All updates are in accordance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
School day and academic programming
- Schools will:
- Operate in-person, 5-days per week.
- Resume a traditional school day and academic schedule without cohorting. Please check your school’s website for the bell schedule.
Staff and student face coverings
- We are a mask friendly school district.
- In accordance with Section V of the July 29th, 2021San Juan Basin Public Health Advisory, students will be required to wear face coverings in school.
- In accordance with federal law and CDPHE’s executive order, everyone must wear a mask on buses regardless of vaccination status.
- Transportation staff may choose NOT to wear a mask outside of a bus.
- Mask requirements may change in accordance with Public Health Advisories or Executive Orders
- Read more on CDPHE’s site for updates.
- Durango Schools is encouraging, but not requiring staff or students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Please provide a vaccination card/record to the school. This will help prevent the need to quarantine.
Parents, volunteers, and school visitors
- In secondary schools:
- Parents, volunteers, and school visitors are permitted with the following added measures in place:
- Self-monitoring for symptoms is still required before entering a building.
- Masks are required, based on SJBPH Advisory that masking is required in schools.
- In elementary schools:
- In order to protect the health and safety for unvaccinated age groups, parents, volunteers, and school visitors are not permitted at this time.
Sanitizing and disinfecting
- Following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Durango Schools will transition to more traditional disinfection and sanitization practices.
- Bottles of sanitizer will still be available to use as needed, but frequent spraying is not required.
- Electrostatic backpack sprayers will be used intermittently, but not as a primary means of cleaning.
- Durango School District will continue to maximize distancing when possible. Individuals are encouraged to remain at least 3 feet away from non-household contacts, per CDPHE recommendations.
- Parents/guardians must complete a symptom screening of their student before school.
- Staff must complete a symptom screening daily prior to arrival at work.
- Students and staff should not attend if they are ill.
- Symptomatic individuals at school will follow isolation procedures and will be provided an opportunity to take a rapid COVID-19 test. Symptomatic individuals must leave campus within 1 hour of notification of symptom on-set. Families, please ensure contact information is correct and provide emergency contacts in the event that your child becomes ill during the school day.
- Staff and students must follow CDPHE’s Return to Learn guidelines for when they can come back to work and school after experiencing illness symptoms (not a COVID-19 case). This also applies to all individuals who have completed their vaccination. The most current guidelines can be found at https://covid19.colorado.gov/cases-and-outbreaks-child-care-schools
- In the population based approach, sick individuals stay home and healthy individuals stay at school and monitor symptoms.
- In the event of an outbreak, San Juan Basin Public Health will oversee contact tracing and quarantine with support from Durango School District 9-R.
- San Juan Basin Public Health will provide quarantine information directly to families of quarantined students.
- Students and staff can opt-in to weekly testing provided by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
- Individuals who engage in weekly testing will be exempt from quarantine if negative.
- Health Service Providers will provide rapid testing for symptomatic individuals who develop symptoms at school. Parents/guardians will provide permission prior to administering the test.
- We will maintain updated signage to reflect current health orders and policies.
Extra-Curricular Activities and Athletics
- Durango School District 9-R will follow CDPHE and CDE guidance regarding activities and athletics in schools.
- Durango School District 9-R will continue following recommendations from CDPHE, CDE, and the state music association.
- Durango School District 9-R will continue following recommendations aligned with CDPHE and PE lessons will take place outdoors to the extent possible.
- Field trips will be permitted with several procedures in place and in alignment with current masking orders:
- Frequent hand washing and sanitizing
- Individuals are required to wear masks on buses
- Physical distancing, when possible
Food and nutrition
- School cafeterias will operate in a traditional manner with students eating their lunch in the cafeteria.
In accordance with health guidance, 9-R will no longer require proactive quarantining of those who may have been exposed to a positive and/or symptomatic individual. 9-R health service providers will work with families on best practices and will provide guidance if a family member in the home tests positive for COVID-19. 9-R will continue to follow SJBPH’s infectious disease guidelines and take additional health measures as directed by SJBPH.
This updated guidance means that 9-R will no longer notify school communities (staff, parents and guardians) about positive and/or symptomatic cases if they are not exposed. Staff, parents and guardians will no longer receive emails and automated phone calls about positive cases in their school. Instead, 9-R will maintain important updates and information on the existing COVID-19 News and Updates page with reported positive cases on a regular basis, not daily.
Families with students who have been exposed to a positive case and/or require quarantine will receive an initial communication from the school district, including call, text and email depending on family information provided to the school district. Subsequent communications around quarantines and testing etc. will come directly from the health department.
SUMMARY OF MITIGATION STRATEGIES FOR THE 2021-22 SCHOOL YEAR
As of August 12, 2021 La Plata County has achieved 73% vaccine rate amongst individuals eligible for vaccines, thus Durango School District 9-R will adopt a population-based approach per the CDPHE guidelines. Below is a matrix illustrating the approach to the school year based on our community vaccination rate, case rate, and carefully monitoring outbreaks in schools per the CDPHE guidelines.
CDC Levels of community transmission defined as total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days (low, 0-9; moderate 10-49; substantial, 50-99, high, ≥100) and percentage of positive tests in the past 7 days (low, <5%; moderate, 5-7.9%; substantial, 8-9.9%; high, ≥10%.)