Eagle County Schools, CMC closing for coronavirus precautions | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools, CMC closing for coronavirus precautions

Public, private schools all closing to help slow spread of virus in Eagle County

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NOTE: This story is updated to include information about food distribution through the schools, scheduled for 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Homestake Peak School in EagleVail, Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum and Battle Mountain High Schools in Edwards.

EDWARDS — Eagle County’s public schools will close for three weeks as a precaution to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, school district officials said Friday.

The school board made the announcement during an emergency meeting Friday at Battle Mountain High School, and released the news via email and text alerts at 3:35 p.m.

The three-week closure for Eagle County Schools is through Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in alignment with Eagle County’s Public Health order on public gatherings.

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“Closing schools at this time and for this long is an unprecedented action and will require the full cooperation and collaboration of the community,” Superintendent Philip Qualman wrote in a statement. “We all understand the inconvenience this decision can have on families. The strategy is to stay home and significantly reduce public circulation. It will not work if families do not stay home.”

Moving to online learning

While the in-person classes will close, learning will not stop, said Kate Cocchiarella, the school board president.

Classes will transition to online learning beginning Tuesday. School district officials have been in meetings with department heads, public health officials and others for a week to prepare. However, details are evolving, Cocchiarella said.

For now, students and families are asked to go to ECS Learns on the school district’s website.

Teachers will have office hours for students who need help. Those hours will be determined, Cocchiarella said.

The school district’s food program will shift to pickup points at Homestake Peak School in EagleVail, Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum and Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. Those pickup points are scheduled to operate from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m.

Parents will drive through the schools’ bus loops where the district will have prepared bags of food ready for them to pick up. Parents will tell us from their car who many they need and we will pass them meals.

“We don’t want parents parking or getting out of cars or having conversations with staff. To process the number of meals in a two-hour window (11 to 1) and maintain social distancing, parents need to stay in their cars and keep the line moving,” the school district said in its announcement.

The move became inevitable as the coronavirus spread across Eagle County, Cocchiarella said. The school board discussed it during this week’s meeting, and the district staff and teachers have been discussing it for a week.

“We’re encouraging calm and learning. There will be bumps in the road,” Cocchiarella said. “We have empathy for the families. We have to work together as a team and as a family.”

“It’s not a vacation. It’s a staycation. Stay engaged and learning,” Cocchiarella said.

VMS, VCHS announce coronavirus closing

Vail Mountain School and Vail Christian High School both announced Friday morning they’re closing school for two weeks as a protective measure.

“We’ve had no confirmed cases among our students, parents, faculty or staff. It’s all about community and protecting our community,” VMS Headmaster Mike Imperi said.

It’s not a vacation, VMS said in an email to its families and community.
VMS faculty and staff will have in-service meetings on Monday and Tuesday to prepare and refine their distance learning plans. Online distance learning will begin on March 18.

While it’s closed, VMS will get a deep cleaning, Imperi said.

Vail Christian High School’s spring break is this upcoming week, then the school will go to online/distance learning the week after, March 23-27. After that, the Saints schedule is to be determined.

“The hope is to be back in the building by March 30, but if we need to extend the closure beyond that we’ll make that decision by March 25,” Vail Christian High School Headmaster Steve O’Neill said.

CMC also taking coronavirus precautions

Colorado Mountain College is extending its spring break for students by one week, through March 20, 2020, the college announced Friday morning. Beginning March 23, classes will move online for three weeks.

In early April, the college will determine whether to return to a face-to-face environment beginning April 13, or continue in a remote environment through to the end of the semester.

“We believe this temporary change in our operations is in the best interest of our students, our employees and our community members,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, CMC’s president and CEO.

The news comes on the heels of dozens of canceled events all over the valley, state and nation as officials try to minimize the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

While schools were specifically exempted from Thursday’s Eagle County Public Health order restricting social gatherings of 50 people or more, the school district appears to be voluntarily adhering to the guidelines.

Under those public health guidelines, events with fewer than 50 people need to have enough room so participants can stay at least 6 feet away from each other.

The public health department’s restrictions are expected to stay in place until at least April 8.

At last count, Eagle County led Colorado with 16 COVID-19 cases. Colorado has 72 confirmed cases. The state also has its first death from complications from the virus: a woman in her 80s in El Paso County.

Eagle County is also Colorado’s only High Country county with evidence that the virus is being transmitted within the community, Scott Bookman, an incident commander with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a media call Thursday.

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