Weekly Superintendent Update, Sept. 3

Weekly Superintendent Update, Sept. 3
Posted on 09/03/2021
dr. sirko

Fall is just around the corner, and with the change in seasons comes the possibility for change in our district. An election is coming up with seven candidates running for three D51 Board of Education seats. The same election includes a bond measure asking for a new Grand Junction High School. The D51 Data Dashboard will continue to help us track ongoing and new cases and learn from data patterns and adjust accordingly. Finally, work on the Strategic Plan will begin next week and last through the end of fall, and will shape the future of the district for years to come.  


Masks and Thresholds for Widespread Transmission Protocols

You may remember a section in the Keeping Schools Open Plan sent to all families on Aug. 6 that said widespread transmission of COVID-19 could result in quarantining entire grades or buildings. This part of the plan said that uncontrolled, widespread transmission in a grade, school, or activity group would be determined through a partnership with Mesa County Public Health whenever there is a high rate of COVID-19 cases, especially if it becomes difficult to determine where clusters of cases are emerging. 


Through our work with MCPH and the Keeping Schools Open Task Force, it has been determined that if 2% of students in a school test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, universal masking will be required in the entire school for at least 14 calendar days. The incidence rate must stay below 1% for seven consecutive days before universal masking is lifted. Recent history has shown us that mask usage in a classroom when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in that classroom and beyond. However, remote learning and/or school closure may occur based on the number of students and staff with COVID-19, number of students absent, and number of substitute teachers available. 


Staff may request that students wear a mask for short periods of time during the school day, depending on circumstances, such as the teacher working in small groups where distancing is not possible, staff working in an office space that does not allow for distancing, or a symptomatic student visiting the nurse’s office. Students in a class required to wear masks for any period of time can receive an exemption if they cannot medically tolerate a face covering. A return to school for these students will be determined through a conversation between the school nurse and the child’s parent/guardian. We are evaluating classrooms serving medically fragile children and having them quarantine/use remote learning after one case in a classroom, if needed.


At the middle and high school level, the policy has been to require students to test for COVID-19 in order to return to school if there have been three positive cases within 14 days in a class or to quarantine all students within a class if the number rises to five cases within 14 days. This will continue to be a part of the plan, but with the new protocol above, these two steps will be suspended if universal masking is already in place in a school due to a 2% student positivity rate.


Strategic Plan Listening Sessions

Thank you to everyone who applied to become a member of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee! Committee members have been selected and are being notified by email today. If you are not a member of the steering committee but still want to be part of the process to create a Strategic Plan for the district, please register to attend one of the upcoming Strategic Plan Listening Sessions on Sept. 14, Sept. 16, Sept. 20, Sept. 21, or Sept. 29. All listening sessions are virtual and will take place from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. The steering committee will use input from these sessions and the listening sessions that happened in early 2020 to develop measurable goals for the next three years of district decision-making.


COVID Testing

Like districts and public health systems across the country, we are struggling with a low supply of rapid tests at many locations here in Mesa County. We are working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to acquire more tests within the next few weeks. In the meantime, our schools will accept the results of home Binax rapid testing for COVID-19 if the test is performed with a telehealth professional by logging into the NAVICA app and following the instructions on the Binax box. A certificate of your test results will be provided through the NAVICA app, and the certificate can be given to your child’s school as evidence of a negative or positive test.


COVIDCheck closed for Labor Day holiday

All COVIDCheck Colorado testing locations will be closed Sept. 5-6 in observance of Labor Day, including the COVIDCheck Colorado sites in the parking lots at Central High School and Fruita 8/9. Anyone who gets tested today should also expect a possible delay in receiving your results due to the holiday closure. We have reordered the rapid tests, as they were unable to deliver on our original order but do expect to get them within the next two weeks which will provide results within 30 minutes.


School Board Meetings

The School Board Work Session that had been scheduled for Sept. 7 has been moved to Sept. 14 to ensure a quorum. Also, starting this month, Spanish translation will be available at D51 Board of Education meetings. To find a schedule of board meetings and meeting agendas, click here.


New Mental Health and Crisis Coordinator

I would like to officially welcome Jason Talley to the District 51 team! After several years working in criminal justice in Mesa County, Jason started this week as the D51 Mental Health and Crisis Coordinator. This position has played a critical part in the district for years and leads crisis response at schools when a tragedy occurs, such as a staff or student death, and arranges extra counselors and subs for students or staff who are impacted. We are lucky to have Jason in this important role!


I hope you all enjoy a safe, relaxing Labor Day weekend!


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