Douglas County moves to hybrid plan to start 2020-2021 school year

The Douglas County School District announced Saturday that it will no longer open its classrooms to 100% in-person learning next month, instead opting for a hybrid model with students spending some days in school and others learning from home each week.

The district’s Board of Education met Saturday and voted unanimously to approve Superintendent Thomas Tucker’s recommendation of a hybrid start to the 2020-2021 school year, according to a news release.

The move comes after Colorado’s two largest school districts — Denver Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools — each announced their students will start the year remotely and not return to their classrooms before Sept. 8, due to the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

— @dcsdk12 (@dcsdk12) July 25, 2020

The Douglas County plan calls for the district’s 68,000 students in preschool through 12th grade to be organized into “cohorts” that will have two days of in-person learning and three days of online learning from home each week. Parents also will be allowed to choose a 100% remote-learning option for their children.

The district’s school year starts Aug. 17 with five days of student orientation that will see just 20% of each school’s students on site each day that week.

Douglas County school officials say they’ll provide further details about the hybrid plan “in the coming days.”

The district previously shared its draft plan for the 2020-2021 school year, a 48-page document that can be found on its website.

Government response to COVID-19 has been controversial among Douglas County leaders, with county commissioners recently announcing their intention to split from the Tri-County Health Department — which also covers Adams and Arapahoe counties — after that agency imposed a mask mandate across the entire three-county area in a bid to slow the renewed spread of the virus.

The county’s elected leaders argued the Tri-County Board of Health went too far when it included Douglas County in its public health order, saying their jurisdiction had a better handle on the coronavirus than the other counties.

Douglas County’s commissioners voted earlier this month to opt out of the Tri-County mask mandate, though Gov. Jared Polis has since ordered face coverings be worn in all public indoor spaces across Colorado.

Douglas County is among the 15 counties that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently warned were at risk of losing their variances — which allow local governments to ease restrictions beyond state levels — because of rising COVID-19 cases.

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