Criticism was swift following Denver Public Schools’ decision to scale back in-person classes and extend remote learning to more grades and for longer periods of time. Much of it echoed a complaint The Denver Post has heard from parents since the summer: The district isn’t prioritizing what’s best for students.
But Dr. Steven Federico, a pediatrician with Denver Health, pushed back on that notion Wednesday during a call with the media and defended DPS for weighing the impact of limiting in-person school against the “real epidemiologic data” that shows rampant COVID-19 spread locally.
“Our students are losing out on the opportunity to have in-person learning because of our failure as a community to keep COVID rates down,” Federico said. “We need to work harder as a community to come together, to work together, to do the things that we know work to drive the rates down so we have fewer cases of COVID coming into our schools promoting disruption.”
Dr. Bill Burman, also with Denver Health, echoed that sentiment saying, “The responsibility for being able to safely reopen schools for all grades in our community is on each of us to do those perhaps somewhat tiresome but necessary basic prevention measures.”
Superintendent Susana Cordova maintained the district’s goal has always been to safely reopen schools for in-person learning but acknowledged that managing parents’ expectations has complicated the process.
“We’ve heard repeatedly from parents both around the desire to be in school, but the desire to have a plan that doesn’t change,” Cordova said. “It’s super challenging and I have come to understand this year in a more humbling way than I ever have in my life the challenges of facing multiple bad choices.”
On Tuesday, Denver imposed tighter restrictions on businesses and community gatherings in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers and concerning trends in hospitalizations. That prompted DPS to move students in third through fifth grade to remote learning until after Thanksgiving, and extend remote learning for middle and high school students through the end of the semester.
Students in early childhood education, kindergarten, first and second grade continue to attend in-person classes five days a week, as do special education students and newcomers to the district. DPS is working to update its COVID-19 indicators to help determine if that continues to be a safe option or when administrators should consider moving those students to remote learning as well, Cordova said.
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