Weekly Superintendent Update, April 2

Weekly Superintendent Update, April 2
Posted on 04/02/2021

Dear D51 Staff and Families, 

I hope you all had a wonderful spring break and are ready for the final quarter of the 2020-21 school year. It has definitely been a year to remember, and we are looking forward to finishing strong together. As a reminder, for the latest information about COVID-19 numbers in District 51, please visit our D51 Data Dashboard.


Mask Protocols

As vaccine distribution becomes more widespread in our community, state and county COVID-19 restrictions are likely to change just a few weeks before the end of the school year. While our staff have been given the option to be vaccinated, no COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in children under the age of 16. With this in mind, the plan is to continue with most safety protocols already in schools, including having staff and students wearing face coverings for the remainder of the school year. As stated in the reopening plan, middle and high school students will continue to wear their masks at all times (except during lunch and designated mask breaks). Elementary students must also wear masks, but can remove them when students are in their designated cohorts. In November, we temporarily asked elementary students to wear a mask, even within their cohorts, and returned to the original guidance listed above in January. Each school can decide to implement additional safety measures, so please check with your school for further details.  


Even if Mesa County moves from Level Blue to Level Green in the near future or does away with the dial system entirely, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Mesa County Public Health still recommend face coverings in schools. We are the largest school district in the state to remain open this entire school year, and we do not want to compromise that - or the ability of your children to have graduation ceremonies, proms, and end-of-year activities - so close to the end of the school year. Continuing to use face coverings will also decrease the need for and length of quarantining if someone in your child’s school tests positive for COVID-19, which has made an amazing difference this past semester. We are also looking at relaxing some protocols, such as allowing visitors into the building during the school day, as long as school safety guidelines are followed. We’ll have more information about that soon.


Student Assessments 

Standardized testing in Colorado is back this spring, with ninth- and tenth-graders taking the PSAT and juniors taking the SAT. Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing is back as well. CMAS Science will be given in eighth grade (and eleventh grade, for those taking CoAlt instead of SAT). There will be no CMAS Social Studies test.


In District 51, each school has the option to choose whether to administer both the CMAS English Language Arts and CMAS Math exams in all grades 3-8 or to administer the CMAS ELA test in grades 3, 5, and 7 and the CMAS Math test in grades 4, 6, and 8. Your school will have information about which option they are choosing and, if they are choosing the latter option, how you can opt in to have your child take both tests. 


Staffing for 2021-22 

Over the past three years we have reduced positions across our entire system, starting with central administration, then support positions, instructional coaching, curriculum, student services, and professional development. This year, overstaffing will be addressed at the school level. 


These changes are being made for several reasons. For example, our school staffing ratios are greater than districts of comparable size, our student enrollment has declined, our starting teacher salaries are below the state average, we start almost every school year with some unfilled positions, and a hundred of our 2,850 employees have already announced they will be retiring or resigning in 2021. With so many people leaving voluntarily, we hope to address over-staffing issues without laying anyone off. If anyone needs to be reassigned, they can apply for openings elsewhere in the district, and we have some additional federal dollars for the next two years that can be used for student intervention during the school year and summer school positions. Plus, with staff-to-student ratios closer to those in comparable districts, we can get closer to having teaching salaries that approach the state average.


Have a safe and restful weekend.






Dr. Diana Sirko

Superintendent of Schools

Mesa County Valley School District 51

(970) 254-5193


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