With COVID-19 cases mounting, the Douglas County School District has decided to switch entirely to remote learning after Thanksgiving break, according to a letter sent by the district to families and staff on Nov. 12.
“We want our families to know that our teachers and staff very much wanted to continue with in-person learning," according to the letter signed by interim Suprintendent Corey Wise. "Making the decision to transition to remote learning, yet again, has been absolutely heartbreaking."
The district cited surges in COVID-19 cases and quarantines for their reasoning for switching to remote learning, adding that the situation makes staffing shortages impossible to overcome. There have been 523 positive cases in the district since the start of the pandemic in March, according to a new data dashboard from the district.
“DCSD currently has nearly 5,000 students and staff members in quarantine and 13 schools in remote learning status, and it appears those numbers will continue to rise in the coming days,” according to the letter.
The last day of in-person learning will be Nov. 18 for some students and Nov. 19 for others, depending on a student's grade level and cohort schedule. Remote learning is scheduled to begin Nov. 30.
The district will continue to monitor the situation as they work to make decisions about the second semester, set to begin Jan. 5 for students, according to the letter.
DCSD's announcement comes on the heels of the news that the county's COVID-19 restrictions have been tightened to one step below a stay-at-home order.
At a school board meeting Nov. 10, board members agreed with a recommendation from Wise to make the switch to remote learning.
Earlier this week, the school district had its lowest-ever fill rate for subsitutes with 77 teacher positions left unfilled that day, according to a district presentation at the meeting.
“You can’t have school without teachers,” Wise said.
While schools are seeing more positive cases, investigations have shown that the vast majority of those infections are not occurring in school, he said. In most situations, teachers and students are becoming infected outside of school.
These positive infections cause many disruptions, as anyone who had close contact with a person with the virus must quarantine for 14 days.
Wise said that during this time period away from in-person learning, the district will focus on mental health of students.
“We know it is better for our students to be in school, in-person, with their peers, and amazing educators. However, the high number of cases and quarantines is creating an environment where many of our students and teachers no longer have a predictable school routine," according to the Nov. 12 letter. "This lack of predictability is stressful, and unfair to our students, staff, and families."
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