Superintendent seeks patience in development of reopening plan

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Ridgway School District Superintendent Susan Lacy is asking for patience from the School Board in the coming weeks as she and her staff work to develop a concrete plan on the reopening of school scheduled for Aug. 31.

After a plan is laid out parents will be given the chance to understand their options and preregister their children for online or brick and mortar school.

The district is getting a practice run this week as a small group of students is attending summer school for half a day four days a week. Students are following mask guidelines, temperature checks are being conducted, and the classes are held mostly outside.

Lacy said masks have been ordered for the upcoming year is working to update the ventilation systems.

She assured the board during a July 23 meeting she is working hard to meet all safety guidelines while still addressing concerns from parents who fear the school may feel more like a “pandemic asylum” than traditional school. She strives to balance “keeping the joy while keeping everyone safe.”

Two teachers emailed questions to the board prior to the meeting. Brian Nelson, secondary science teacher, asked for detailed protocols for various scenarios in which students or staff contract or are suspected of contracting COVID-19. Chery Bradley, elementary gifted and talented coordinator, asked if there were any possible alternatives for staff who are older or have underlying health issues. She also asked if students would have to be quarantined for days before returning to school.

Lacy said the Colorado Department of Education would be releasing more detailed outbreak guidance soon in which those questions would be addressed.

Results of a recent staff survey found the majority, 65 percent, are “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with returning to the classroom.

Only 26 percent were very comfortable with fully online classes, which is not related to safety, but rather the ability to effectively do their job of teaching students virtually.

The board adopted a resolution to define “actively engaged in the educational process” to include: “instruction delivered electronically and/or the use of other types of independent, remote work time for students provided under the supervision of a certified or licensed teacher."

New Secondary School Principal Russell Randolph made his debut at a board meeting to discuss additions and changes to the school handbook. He proposed adding communicable diseases as a reason to not allow a student to attend school. He also proposed changing the assessment of grades to determine eligibility to participate in sports from weekly to quarterly, saying weekly grade checks put too much of a burden on teachers.

Board member Tim Taplin said quarterly assessment of grades would be worse because teachers would go weeks without entering grades. He asked Randolph how he could be sure teachers would enter grades in a timely manner and Randolph said he would be checking grade books weekly.