Education – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 30 Jul 2020 19:08:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Education – The Pagosa Springs SUN 32 32 School district continues work on reopening plan Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:00:14 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Archuleta School District (ASD) staff and teachers are continuing to work toward a final plan for how the 2020-2021 school year will look when it begins.

On July 21, meetings were held for teachers and parents to offer feedback on ASD’s draft reopening plan, which is available on the district’s website,

Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza explained on July 23 that, following meetings, she and other staff members categorized the questions and feedback received to eliminate duplications and clean up the feedback.

The biggest question received, she noted, was about the blended learning A/B model, where different groups of students go on designated days in order to decrease the number of people in the school buildings.

“That was harder to give them an answer to than it seems, and it’s only because the schools all have to align and do the same thing in order for it to work for families,” she said, noting the leadership team’s meeting Tuesday would work toward defining that. “The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) identified seven different ways you could potentially do that, which sounds incredibly complex. … We’ve got to sit down and look at what makes the most sense for our schools and our staff.”

LeBlanc-Esparza noted that a number of people also asked about masks, and if elementary school students are going to be required to wear masks.

The superintendent referenced the state’s mask order currently in effect, which states that everyone above age 10 wear a mask.

“And that eliminates our elementary. That said, we’re recommending it, we’re just not requiring it,” she said.

LeBlanc-Esparza noted the district is focusing on a positive campaign with students around keeping them safe, and added that, for those times when distancing is not possible, everyone will have a mask provided by the district.

The district also received a number of questions about what health screenings will look like, she explained.

She noted the CDE’s guidance has been to work hard to partner with families to have students screened at home before they ever get on the bus or head to school.

She added that the district is looking into the possibility of having an app for parents to log health screening information before students get to the school buildings, thereby lessening the number of students who would need to be screened at that point. 

To help answer those questions received during the feedback meetings, the district has created an FAQ section related to the school reopening and reopening plan. That is accessible via

The site includes answers, if available, to questions such as:

• “What happens if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school?”

• “How and when will the schools health screen students?” 

• “What are the plans for providing PPE to students and staff?”

But, she noted, the district has heard positive feedback regarding the planning process.

“Overwhelmingly, we’ve had board support, we’ve have staff express gratitude for its flexibility and our willingness to engage staff in hashing out the details,” she said, noting the whole-district approach to creating the plan.

She added that parents have appreciated being able to offer their opinions and have appreciated the district’s options — something she noted neighboring districts haven’t offered, only offering purely online and purely in-person options.

“I don’t feel like it’s that simple. I believe we owe our community more than that, and I would tell you our staff believes we owe our community more than that,” she said.

The district is also taking into account new guidelines released by the CDE last week that include requirements and suggestions for districts — some of which surprised educators across the state, LeBlanc-Esparza noted.

Among those things that caught educators off guard was a change that calls for distancing of 3 to 6 feet.

“Their epidemiologist started the discussion with, you know, ‘We’re comfortable, given the body of evidence around young people, as long as you’re social distancing 3 to 6 feet. Obviously the further apart the better, but if you can only accomplish 3 feet, we’re comfortable with that,’” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “And, honestly, that’s where -— many of the educators across the state were not overly pleased with that statement because they really didn’t feel like that was a safe statement to be made.”

LeBlanc-Esparza noted that the epidemiologist report reflects that, under the age of 10, kids are more at risk of getting COVID from the adults than the other way around.

Moving forward, ASD will continue to solicit feedback from its staff and families, including through another set of surveys.

Those surveys, she noted, will repeat some of the same questions surrounding comfort levels with different things related to attending school that appeared on the first survey.

The district will also hold focus groups with teachers to determine what teachers need, namely if a lot of educating is going to be digital.

Next week, principals and leaders from each of the district’s schools will focus on school-specific plans.

In the last two weeks of August, LeBlanc-Esparza explained, the district will know what public health and executive orders are in place, what the trends look like, if the mask mandate is making a difference and if the tourist season slows down.

That, along with survey results, will allow the district to determine what the beginning of the school year will look like, she reported.

Public Meetings Thu, 30 Jul 2020 21:00:44 +0000 The following meetings are subject to change.

Thursday, July 30

Pagosa Springs Town Council special meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Friday, July 31

Pagosa Springs Town Council work session. 8 a.m. See town website for participation information.

Monday, Aug. 3

Archuleta County Board of Equalization petition hearings. 9 a.m. Archuleta County administration building, commissioners’ meeting room, 398 Lewis St. Possible Zoom meeting.

Pagosa Peak Open School Board of Directors regular meeting. 5 p.m., 7 Parelli Way.

Tuesday, Aug. 4

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners work session. 8:30 a.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners regular meeting. 1:30 p.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Thursday, Aug. 6

Town of Pagosa Springs Combined Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting. 5:30 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Public meeting information should be sent to with “Public Meeting” in the subject line. The deadline is noon Monday each week prior to publication for that week’s issue.

Meet this year’s Pagosa stars who are dancing for your votes Tue, 28 Jul 2020 11:00:58 +0000

Photos courtesy Ursala Hudson, Jonathan Dobson and Robert Bonham
Top left to bottom right: Quinlan Quiros, Theresa Snyder, Blue Haas, Jonathan Dobson, Gabriel Heraty and Robert Bonham.

By Gabrielle Dorr
Seeds of Learning

Seeds of Learning is honored to announce the 2020 dancers who will be winning your hearts in our annual Dancing with the Pagosa Stars event. We selected these “Stars” for their community leadership, personality, and a belief in Seed’s education. 

If you have been following this event since April, then you will notice that our lineup of “Stars” and coaches has changed. Currently, our talented female “Stars” are Quinlan Quiros and Theresa Snyder. Our respected male “Stars” are Gabriel Heraty, Blue Haas, Jonathan Dobson and Robert Bonham. Due to safety precautions, we will be streaming this year’s Dancing with the Pagosa Stars online on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. 

Our incredibly generous stars have agreed to be paired with this year’s professional coaches including Ashley Butcher, Sharina Ramsay-Adams, Alora Pelligrino, Haley Hudson, Nolan King and John Gilliam. Our stars learn a dance routine choreographed just for them and then perform for your votes now through our broadcast on Sept. 26. It will be a magical night for everyone joining in and witnessing these stars performing their dance of a lifetime.

Right now, you can go to the Seeds website at to see the biography of each star who is competing for your votes. Voting is now open and each $1 vote moves a star closer to winning the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy and bragging rights as the winner of this year’s event. More importantly, all the proceeds go to sustaining the important work that Seeds of Learning does to prepare preschoolers for their successful future both in school and in life.

This year, ticket sales will open to the public in August. Watch our website and Facebook page ( for specific instructions on ticket purchase and other important event information.

During the next few weeks we will tell you more about our Pagosa stars and why they have agreed to support Seeds. Each has a unique story and everyone associated with Seeds feels very lucky to have their amazing support. Their commitment to raise critically needed funds to educate vulnerable at-risk preschool children is truly inspiring. When you see these folks around town, be sure to let them know how special they are, and don’t forget to vote.

Colorado families with school-aged students to begin receiving Pandemic-EBT food benefits Fri, 24 Jul 2020 11:00:40 +0000 By Madlynn Ruble
Colorado Department of Human Services

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), is pleased to announce that Coloradans with school-enrolled children will begin to receive food benefits through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. This effort will help support Colorado’s families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 360,000 Colorado children are eligible for P-EBT benefits, which will reimburse families for the free and reduced-price meals that students missed while schools were closed in March, April and May because of COVID-19. 

Families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or food stamps) and whose children attend a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program, can expect to have benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards between July 22 and July 31. Eligible families who don’t receive an automatic payment will need to apply for P-EBT funds.

“We know many Colorado families are struggling to pay bills and feed their children and this is one way we can help provide access to nutritious food and meet the needs of Coloradans during this difficult time,” said CDHS Food and Energy Assistance Director Karla Maraccini. “When used in conjunction with grab-and-go meals, these P-EBT benefits will be a great tool in ensuring Colorado’s children receive healthy meals.”

The P-EBT program is designed to reimburse households for meals missed during school closures for those who are enrolled in or eligible for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program (FRLP). Benefits are calculated in the amount of $5.70 per student per day of school closure. Households with students who are already enrolled in FRLP will receive a lump sum of $279 per eligible child (49 days of closure at $5.70 a day). A child newly eligible but not previously enrolled will receive the appropriate amount for the days they are determined eligible for P-EBT.

Eligible families include those with children in preschool, early childhood education and pre-K through grade 12 who are enrolled in a school that participates in the NSLP. This includes public, private and charter schools. Students who attend some online schools are also eligible, as are special needs students aged 18 to 22.

Some families may need to apply for P-EBT benefits and the application will be made available in the last week of July on the CDHS website. Those instances can include:

• If families do not automatically receive P-EBT funds on their current EBT card or if they did not get SNAP for all three months (March, April and May), they may qualify for more P-EBT benefits and should apply. 

• Eligible students who were not receiving food assistance in March, April and May will need to apply for the P-EBT benefit.

• If families can’t find or don’t have their EBT card, they will need to submit an application and then request a new card at In this email, they will need to include the applicant’s name, date of birth, mailing address, phone number, State Issued ID Number and P-EBT application reference number.

All applicants will need their student’s State Issued ID number (also referred to as a SASID), which should have been provided to them by their school or school district.

In addition to supporting healthy and wholesome meals for Colorado’s eligible school-age children, P-EBT is expected to bring more than $110 million of federal money into the state’s economy through food retailers.

P-EBT was created under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) as an important opportunity to provide nutritional resources to families who are losing or lost access to free or reduced-priced school meals as schools across Colorado closed in response to COVID-19.

More information can be found at

Public Meetings Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:00:26 +0000 The following meetings are subject to change.

Thursday, July 23

Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Tuesday, July 28

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners work session. 8:30 a.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Upper San Juan Health Service District regular board meeting. 5:30 p.m. Join Zoom meeting:, meeting ID: 969 0492 6293 Phone in using: (346) 248-7799. 

Town Planning Commission, Board of Adjustments and Design Review Board work session. 5:30 p.m. See town website for participation information. 

Friday, July 31

Pagosa Springs Town Council work session. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Monday, Aug. 3

Pagosa Peak Open School Board of Directors regular meeting. 5 p.m., 7 Parelli Way.

Public meeting information should be sent to with “Public Meeting” in the subject line. The deadline is noon Monday each week prior to publication for that week’s issue.

Charter school board discusses reopening school Mon, 20 Jul 2020 11:00:50 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

On Monday evening, the Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) Board of Directors discussed how the school should move forward in terms of reopening in the fall, with the board favoring seeking funding that would allow the school to decrease class sizes for in-person education while also offering a distance-learning option.

The board discussed the matter in a work session, with School Director Angela Reali-Crossland first explaining what work she and the school staff had done in reaching out to students’ families.

Reali-Crossland explained that two surveys were sent to families, one for those with returning students and the other to the parents of incoming kindergartners enrolled with the school.

The survey for returning students garnered 38 responses representing 51 returning students, Reali-Crossland explained. The other received 12 responses.

That survey asked about successes and challenges of distance learning, components that were helpful in the distance learning process, what education options (in-person education, distance learning or hybrid) families felt would be best and priorities for safety. The survey for incoming kindergarten students was the same but did not ask the questions about distance learning that took place this spring.

Among the successes listed were helpful staff members, the ability for the students to connect with each other, parents understanding what their children were learning, students becoming more independent in their learning, and more.

Challenges listed included the lack of social interaction, parents struggling to serve as a teacher at home, parents not having the ability to both work and focus on their children’s schooling, poor Internet connections, too much screen time, and more.

Of the families with returning students, 60.5 percent favored full-time in-person education, 36.8 percent felt a hybrid model would work for them and a portion stated they needed a distance-only option.

Of the kindergarten families, 75 percent favored in-person learning, 16.7 percent favored a hybrid and 8.3 percent responded that they needed distance learning.

Reali-Crossland noted that only a few who listed a hybrid approach as their option mentioned COVID-19 in their reasoning.

Reali-Crossland also summarized what the families are most concerned about in terms of priorities for safety (families could choose several):

• 83 percent chose increased cleaning of classrooms.

• 81 percent chose increased handwashing stations.

• 54 percent supported health checks.

• 45 percent chose having a max of 20 students in a classroom.

• 32 percent supported a cohort of students staying together.

• 29 percent supported masks for staff.

• 29 percent supported staggered start times for different grades to lessen the number of people entering the building at a time.

• 27 percent supported masks for students.

In response to board questioning, Reali-Crossland explained that teachers expressed more about safety and logistics than class sizes.

She added that every instructor had the opportunity to serve on the distance learning committee, and Assistant Director Thomas Davenport reached out to each about resources and concerns for next year.

Some expressed concerns over things such as what it would look like to keep kindergartners 6 feet apart, Reali-Crossland explained.

“I think they would prefer lower numbers because it would be easier to enforce some of those things,” she said. “If we were at 25 in a classroom, they would have an assistant and so the ratio and the number doesn’t always create, I mean they’d have extra support, if that makes any sense.” 

Reali-Crossland further noted both at her meeting and in her written report, “All of our future classrooms will hold 25+ students with social distancing protocols in place.” 

That, she explained, is based off of 900 square feet for 25 students.

But, she noted, family concerns and the state will dictate the number of kids in a classroom.

Reali-Crossland noted that if the state allows 25 kids per classroom, PPOS has a chance to go back full-time five days a week.

“There are definitely some concerns of families related to that,” she said, asking the board what PPOS might want to do that would be more strict than the state, such as allowing 25 per classroom if the state does since that’s what the budget allows or “aggressively grantwriting” to help cover the costs associated with putting only 15 kids in a classroom.

Board member Bill Hudson suggested he doesn’t see a big difference between 15 and 25 kids in a classroom as far as safety of the kids, and asked if a hybrid option would be available for families wanting their kids to go only one or two days per week.

“It sounds to me like your proposal, Bill, is actually home-schooling, where they don’t really want to have in-person education,” board member Mark Weiler said, adding that fewer kids per teacher raises the quality of the time each teacher can spend with each student.

He recommended grantwriting to increase the individual attention, which would also differentiate PPOS.

Board member Julie Simmons suggested that high-risk students who missed out on half of the previous school year will probably need an in-person option.

Simmons added that she had heard from “quite a few” parents who probably wouldn’t send their students back without a distance option because of current conditions, and other parents stated they can’t work while their kids are schooling at home or who feel like their kids are not learning at home.

“There’s two totally different scenarios going on right now,” she said.

Later in the conversation, Reali-Crossland noted that if PPOS offers in-person education, she believes it legally has to offer distance learning.

As the conversation continued, Reali-Crossland and the board discussed possible learning platforms for distance learning and opted to not offer a hybrid learning model that would allow students to be on campus some days and home others.

Instead, PPOS will focus on offering in-person and distance-learning options.

Board president Ursala Hudson suggested pushing in-person education as the first choice, but noted that the distance-learning option would help the school be set up if it has to again close to in-person education.

During the regular meeting that followed the work session, the board unanimously voted to allow grantwriting to help cover additional costs associated with smaller class sizes and tech support.

Current enrollment

As part of her report to the board during the regular meeting, Reali-Crossland outlined the school’s current enrollment of 110 students, as well as its wait list numbers:

• Kindergarten: 17 enrolled, five on the wait list.

• First grade: 18 enrolled, nine on the wait list.

• Second grade: 18 enrolled, two on the wait list.

• Third grade: 12 enrolled.

• Fourth grade: seven enrolled.

• Fifth grade: 14 enrolled.

• Sixth grade: eight enrolled.

• Seventh grade: 16 enrolled.

Reali-Crossland explained that, with the exception of siblings of existing students, spaces in classes with more than 17 students have not been filled, and she indicated that some families are still debating their enrollment due to the pandemic.

Other business

In other business at the meeting, the board also approved allowing a firearms safety and instruction company to use space within the school when students and staff are not present.

Reali-Crossland explained that the company would use the space to do firearms instruction and would have no live ammo on-site, and no firearms would be left on-site.

In return, she explained, the company could either pay rent or trade work hours to help with things like maintenance.

Bill Hudson suggested PPOS have a policy for people looking to sublet space from PPOS, which the board agreed with.

He further expressed concerns with sanitation.

Judson Crossland, co-owner of the company looking to rent space, told the board the company always seeks to leave places it uses cleaner than it finds them, and Bill Hudson pointed out his concern centered more on sanitizing.

Crossland noted he was more than happy to accept an agreement on a provisional basis and allow PPOS to figure things out.

The board approved a letter allowing the company to have a firearm and instruction company on school property and is expected to discuss a policy at its August meeting.

The board also approved hiring a food security/food program advisor.

Board of Education announces director vacancy Sun, 19 Jul 2020 11:00:46 +0000

Brooks Lindner

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Archuleta School District (ASD) Board of Education (BOE) is looking to fill a vacancy following the resignation of Brooks Lindner, who served as the board president and director for District 1.

Lindner resigned effective July 7 in a letter addressed to the BOE and Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza that explains Lindner’s family sold their house and he will no longer have a residence in District 1.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my seven years on school board,” Lindner wrote. “I learned a lot, forged friendships and professional relationships, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have had an impact on the education of the children in our community. I certainly would have preferred to serve out my second term, but the sale of our house is a necessity in my family’s life right now. I am committed to continuing to serve our district in whatever capacity I can as a community member.”

Lindner was elected to the board in November 2013.

At its meeting Tuesday evening, the BOE approved a resolution accepting Lindner’s resignation and announcing the vacancy, which it notes must be filled by appointment within 60 days.

According to the approved resolution, anyone interested is invited to send a letter to the board with a statement of interest and qualifications by Aug. 27.

Those letters should be delivered to the district office at 309 Lewis St.; sent by email to; or sent by mail to: Executive Assistant Robyn Bennett, P.O. Box 1498, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. 

The letter of intent should address the following: 

1. Why do you want to be on the board? 

2. Do you plan on running for the position once your term expires in November of 2021? 

3. What is your philosophy of education as it relates to serving on the board?

The board will then interview prospective candidates at a 5 p.m. public meeting on Sept. 8. The appointee will serve until the board’s next regular biennial election in November 2021.

To be eligible to fill the vacancy, a candidate must be a registered elector of the school district and a resident of director District 1.

Citizens who are interested in applying but who are unsure of what director district they reside in can go to, then to “Find my registration” to find out which school board precinct they reside in, which is located under the “County & District Information” tab.

The district explains the boundaries of District 1 as: “Beginning at the intersection of Hwy 160 and County Rd (CR) 600, the boundary line of Director District #1 shall run North along CR 600 to the intersection of Steven’s Lake Rd, thence Northerly along Steven’s Lake Rd to the intersection of Dutton Creek, thence North along Dutton Creek to the intersection of US Forest Service Rd (USFS RD) 661, thence Northeast along USFS RD 661 to the intersection of CR 400, thence North along CR 400 to the Archuleta/Mineral County line, thence West along the Archuleta/Mineral County line, thence North along the Archuleta/Mineral County line to the Archuleta/Hinsdale County line, thence continuing North along the Mineral/Hinsdale County line to the Continental Divide, thence West along the Continental Divide to the East line of La Plata County, thence South along the common boundary of the La Plata/Hinsdale County line to the Northwest boundary of Archuleta County, thence East along the common boundary of Archuleta/Hinsdale County to CR 600, thence Southerly along CR 600 to North Pagosa Blvd, thence South along North Pagosa Blvd to the intersection of Hwy 160, thence East along Hwy 160 to the beginning point where Hwy 160 intersects with CR 600.”

A map is also available on ASD’s website.

CDE to offer optional SAT and PSAT tests this fall at no cost to public school seniors and juniors Fri, 17 Jul 2020 11:00:52 +0000 Colorado Department of Education

Colorado school districts and charter schools will have the opportunity this fall to offer their 12th- and 11th-grade students the SAT and PSAT at no cost to the student. 

The Colorado Department of Education will pay for the assessments that will be administered during the school day on specific dates in September and October, using existing funds designated for assessments. 

The optional assessments will provide interested eligible students with an opportunity to take, at no expense to them, the SAT or PSAT in place of the spring 2020 SAT and PSAT school-day exams that were not administered due to the suspension of in-school learning last spring because of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Replacement administrations are not being offered for the canceled CMAS or PSAT9 exams.

“The SAT and ACT are not required for admission into Colorado public colleges and universities next year, but I know many of our students will still want to take a college entrance assessment as another way, in addition to grades and activities, to demonstrate their accomplishments,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes. “I’m pleased we will be able to offer the SAT to our seniors and the PSAT to our juniors — at no cost to them — to provide another opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to postsecondary institutions, as well as scholarship providers.”

In addition, students may elect to take the SAT on one of three available Saturday administration dates at state expense if they attend a public school that has not chosen to participate in a school day administration. Results will be used for individual student and local school or district purposes only and will not be used for state reporting or accountability in 2021. 

In-school test dates:


Primary test date: Sept. 23.

Make-up test date: Oct. 28.


Primary test date: Oct. 14.

Alternate test date: Oct. 28.

Test dates may be canceled in the event of a local or regional school closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event of closure, additional test dates are not expected to be scheduled, but students may have the option to take the assessment on a Saturday administration. 

Public Meetings Thu, 16 Jul 2020 21:00:36 +0000 The following meetings are subject to change.

Tuesday, July 21

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners work session. 8:30 a.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners regular meeting. 1:30 p.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

C-STAT Distinguished Performance Award by state of Colorado to Archuleta County Department of Human Services team. 3 p.m. Archuleta County administration building, commissioners’ meeting room, 398 Lewis St. and via Google online. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Thursday, July 23

Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Tuesday, July 28

Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners work session. 8:30 a.m. Call 264-8300 one to two days before the meeting to obtain the login information.

Upper San Juan Health Service District regular board meeting. 5:30 p.m. Join Zoom meeting:, meeting ID: 969 0492 6293 Phone in using: (346) 248-7799. 

Friday, July 31

Pagosa Springs Town Council work session. 5 p.m. See town website for participation information.

Monday, Aug. 3

Pagosa Peak Open School Board of Directors regular meeting. 5 p.m., 7 Parelli Way.

Tuesday, Aug. 11

Archuleta School District Board of Education meeting. 6 p.m., virtual meeting. See the agenda on the district website for participation information.

Thursday, Aug. 13

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District regular meeting. 5 p.m., 100 Lyn Ave.

Public meeting information should be sent to with “Public Meeting” in the subject line. The deadline is noon Monday each week prior to publication for that week’s issue.

School district unveils draft reopening plan Thu, 16 Jul 2020 11:00:52 +0000 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Archuleta School District began unveiling its draft plan for reopening schools this fall and receiving feedback on it, beginning with district staff and the Board of Education (BOE).

Next Tuesday, July 21, the district will hold a pair of parent meetings regarding the plan.

The draft plan is available on the district’s website,

“Our families are trusting us to build a really good plan,” Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza told the BOE Tuesday.

The superintendent told the board that, as of the meeting, 480 parents had responded to the district’s parents survey and 133 staff members had returned their survey.

In presenting information related to the draft plan, LeBlanc-Esparza noted the draft was based on the current guidance available from the Colorado Department of Education and public health agencies, though updated guidance for schools was expected Wednesday morning.

Board feedback on the plan touched upon determining and documenting students meeting state requirements and curriculum, giving teachers time to transition between learning modules if necessary, ensuring communications with families, risk and benefits for staff related to COVID-19 such as sick days, the district’s plan for students from New Mexico who live under different state orders, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and more.

The 10-page draft includes an overview, considerations for reopening school, and information on proposed learning models, social and emotional learning support, targeted health precautions, safe learning spaces and healthy practices, transportation, nutrition services, potentially high-risk activities, communications with families, and a summary.

“The goal of this plan is to address district-wide processes, procedures and instructional models. Following our district process, each school will convene a work group to develop appropriate plans and procedures specific to that school. Those plans will also be shared with families and the community,” the overview states.

The plan notes that the district will work with national, state and local recommendations and acknowledges that the information and guidelines built into the plan are likely to change.

“While many of our staff and families are hopeful for an in-person school experience, we recognize that in-person learning may not be the fit for every family. Our district will offer an online option for those who are interested. No matter which option is best for you and your family, we are committed to working with you to ensure your child has a positive, engaging, supportive educational experience,” the overview reads.

The plan lays out four proposed learning models: extensive online learning, targeted in-person instruction with mostly online learning, blended learning that would likely include students attending school in person a portion of the week and engage in online learning at home the other days of the week, and primarily in-person learning.

“We will adhere to the appropriate models based on phases defined by the governor’s office and the Colorado Department of Health,” the document states, with LeBlanc-Esparza telling the BOE Tuesday how the district starts the school year will depend on health orders in place at the time.

Families will also have the choice between in-person or online instruction, which LeBlanc-Esparza noted would be through an available online model paid for by the district.

In terms of health and safety practices, the draft document outlines things including, but not limited to:

• Temperature screenings and COVID-19 screening questions.

• Strongly recommending face coverings for staff and students.

• Maintaining social distancing with at least 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible, with staff expected to have a face covering if that distance is not possible.

• Teaching students appropriate handwashing techniques.

• Providing opportunities for students to wash hands or use sanitizer throughout the day.

• Each student will be expected to have his or her own supplies and materials.

• Each student will be issued a Chromebook for use at the school.

• Lockers will not be used for the upcoming school year.

• Communal water fountains will be disconnected and students will be asked to bring a refillable water bottle from home.

• “To the maximum extent possible, we will limit the number of personal interactions a student experiences throughout the school day. For example, traffic flow will be designed so that students may maintain appropriate social distance and avoid face-to-face interactions.”

• “Any recesses and/or student breaks will be staggered to ensure the number of students in a designated area meets current guidelines.”

• “Custodians will engage in deep cleaning and sanitizing as per CDC and Colorado Department of Education guidelines.”

• There will be no community use of the facilities due to cleaning and sanitizing needs.

• No outside visitors will be allowed, and parents will not be able to eat lunch.

“Providing transportation to our students will be a unique and ongoing challenge,” the plan notes.

The plan notes that a typical school bus has capacity for 60-78 riders.

“During this COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes incredibly challenging due to the close proximity of seating and need for ongoing cleaning measures,” the plan states before laying out transportation-related guidelines, which include cleaning and sanitizing after each run, social distancing, masks, assigned seats and more.

LeBlanc-Esparza noted during the meeting that 52.73 percent of people who took the survey stated their child(ren) would not ride school transportation.

Parent meetings

The parent meetings will be held on Tuesday, July 21, and a draft plan for opening schools this fall is slated to be presented.

The meetings will be held at 5:30 and 7 p.m., with both meetings taking place virtually via Zoom — a change from what the district previously announced.

Those looking to attend either meeting are required to RSVP to Robyn Bennett at or by calling 264-2228, ext. 5401 to obtain access information.