Cherry Creek schools to reopen Aug. 17 for in-person learning

Bucking the trend in the Denver metro area, Cherry Creek School District will start its school year Aug. 17 with full-time and part-time in-person learning, depending on grade.

Students in preschool through fifth grade will return for in-person instruction five days a week, the district announced Thursday. Sixth through 12th graders will adhere to a hybrid format, attending school in person two days a week and learning remotely three days a week. Remote education will be asynchronous, meaning classes will not be held live and students may work at their own pace to complete assignments.

The district, Colorado’s fourth largest by enrollment, will offer a 100% virtual curriculum for families who do not feel comfortable sending their kids physically back to school.

In a letter sent to Cherry Creek families, Superintendent Scott Siegfried pointed to “a sustained decrease in the number of COVID cases in Arapahoe County” over the last 10 days and other public health indicators as reasons for the decision.

Siegfried created a location-specific COVID tracker to decide whether it is safe to reopen schools. It weighs four data points — two-week average test positivity rate, daily hospitalizations, the number of daily reported cases and 14-day incident rate per 100,000 residents — intended to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in the county.

Each data point is assigned a rating. A score below 4 means it’s unsafe to reopen schools, while equal to or above 4 means it is safe. On Wednesday, one day before the district’s announcement, Cherry Creek determined the relative safety rating to be 6.

“We will continue to monitor daily COVID rates. If we see a sustained change in the wrong direction and it becomes unsafe to maintain in-person learning, I will not hesitate to make the call to switch to full remote learning,” Siegfried wrote in his letter.

Cherry Creek’s decision to reopen schools contrasts with other Front Range districts that have been moving to a remote start, citing recent trends in the number of coronavirus cases.

Colorado Springs School District 11 and Thompson School District announced students would learn remotely through mid-October, while St. Vrain Valley School District and Boulder Valley School District opted for virtual at-home learning through the last week of September.

Denver Public Schools, the state’s largest district, also recently extended remote learning for most students through mid-October. Jeffco Public Schools anticipates students will learn remotely through at least Sept. 8. Douglas County School District’s 68,000 students are expected to start the year using a hybrid schedule.

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