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What Are Local School Districts Doing About The COVID-19 Outbreak?

Mar 12, 2020

Credit Molly Dove / Aspen Public Radio

The Roaring Fork and Aspen school districts are putting plans into place as coronavirus spreads. Sporting events are canceled, schools are preparing for conducting classes online and penalties for absences are being waived if they are related to COVID-19. 

Reporter Molly Dove looked into what steps local districts could take in the face of the outbreak. She sat down with reporter and interim news director Christin Kay with details. 

CK: How are local school districts preparing?

MD: So Aspen School District began conversations with Pitkin County Public Health back in late January when news of the coronavirus first began to circulate. In a letter to parents last week, the district’s interim superintendent Tom Heald said that since January, the nursing, technology, curriculum and student services teams have been coming up with a plan in case the district had to close down. That includes an online-based curriculum. In addition, the Colorado High School Activities Association has canceled all events through April 6, and that includes Aspen School District and Roaring Fork School District sporting events. 

The Roaring Fork School District says they are working with Garfield County Public Health Department. They are preparing for classes to be online. Roaring Fork Schools canceled all non-essential events and gatherings until March 29th. 

CK: How are they keeping the schools clean?

MD: The Aspen School District is encouraging teachers and students to stay if they feel sick with any symptoms of coronavirus, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath. Those in school have been told to cover coughs with a tissue and wash hands regularly for 20 seconds.

The Roaring Fork School District said their custodial teams are cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, like doorknobs, faucets and tables with hospital-grade disinfectant cleaner. They are giving more cleaning and disinfectant supplies to each classroom so staff can use them as needed throughout the day. For students who feel sick or don’t feel comfortable coming to school because of the coronavirus, the district said there will be no penalties for absences related to the coronavirus.

CK: What would lead the districts to actually close the schools?

MD: So Aspen Schools has been in contact with the community and staff regularly to keep them informed directly. There are confirmed presumptive positive cases in Aspen, but the district has some time to make decisions since the students are not in school the rest of the week with parent and teacher conferences happening.

Roaring Fork Schools say they are following Governor Jared Polis’ recommendations of if one student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, then the schools will close for 72 hours to clean and disinfect while public health officials make a plan for how to proceed. If three or more students and staff test positive, then the schools will close for 14 days. Though, the district said they are ultimately following the guidance of the Garfield County Public Health Department. 

CK: Why don’t schools just close as a precautionary measure?

MD: Roaring Fork Schools said that many of their schools provide critical social services for students and families, like food, healthcare and childcare, so they said closing the schools are always a last resort for those reasons. Regardless, both Aspen Schools and Roaring Fork Schools say they will follow the guidance of local and state health officials.

Aspen Public Radio is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information about COVID-19 that our community can use to make decisions about their health.