Eagle County Schools to discuss possibility of delayed start to school year at special meeting

Battle Mountain High School will start the year with an A/B hybrid schedule that divides student counts in half.
Special to the Daily

Eagle County Schools has scheduled a special Board of Education meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of delaying the start of the school year by one week and to review details about restarting school in August.

The calendar change would move the first day of school from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25. In a district-wide email, Superintendent Philip Qualman wrote that the extra time is needed for teacher training, student evaluation, retooling lesson plans, and parent meetings to prepare for an unusual school year.  

The public is invited to attend the meeting virtually, with meeting access information available at

Participation information for the Board of Education meeting will be posted after the agenda has been finalized. The regular session of the meeting is set for 6 p.m. and the estimated meeting time is 2.25 hours.

Google Hangout Meeting ID:

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Phone Number: (‪US‬) ‪+1 929-287-3275    PIN: 933 400 347#‬

‬Any member of the public that does not have internet or computer access to join may attend in person at Red Canyon High School West at 395 McGregor Dr., Gypsum, CO — Limit 10 people.

Back-to-school update

Eagle County Schools has already released a draft document detailing how the school district intends to return in-person and hybrid instruction. That document issues guidance for teachers and parents on how local public schools will function in the fall.

The district has received significant input from all stakeholders in the community and is in the process of refining and updating its back-to-school plans. Several details are still being finalized in partnership with Eagle County Public Health and the Eagle County Education Association.

Once these specifics have been resolved, the district will release its reopening plan to parents, staff, and the community. The situation changes daily as epidemiological data and advice from CDE and Public Health evolve. Eagle County Schools hopes all outstanding issues will be addressed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Elementary and middle schools are expected to go forward with in-person instruction five days per week as usual, per the document, while Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high school students will use a half-time in-person, half-time remote learning plan called a hybrid model.

Employees who do not feel safe returning to work due to COVID-19 will have access to paid leave, accrued paid leave, sick leave bank, FMLA leave and unemployment benefits if alternative work options are not feasible, according to the draft document.

“Like security zones in an airport, our protocols combine to create layers of protection,” the document states. “Parents screen at home. Schools screen before access. Visitors are limited. Staff and students wear face coverings. Personal hygiene and frequent cleaning limits germs. Those who become sick are isolated immediately.”

Facemasks will be required by all students, staff, volunteers and guests in school settings. People with certain disabilities including respiratory conditions, those who are hearing impaired or have been advised by a health professional that wearing a mask poses a risk will be excluded from the facemask policy. Clear plastic face shields will be allowed as an alternative to cloth face coverings.

“Younger students will need help putting coverings on and off, and getting used to wearing them,” the document predicts.

Stringent screening

All staff and students will be checked for signs of illness upon entry each day. Staff will be trained in health and safety protocols, including how to screen for symptoms.

“Those with any illness must stay home,” according to the plan. “We will look for and ask about these symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing, a fever of 100.4 or higher, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, congestion/runny nose, chills, unusual fatigue.”

Each school will have isolation rooms for students who develop symptoms while at school. Students or staff will be excluded from the school if they have any of the symptoms listed.

If a student or staff member tests positive, then the district will send everyone home from the class for 10 days of remote learning. If multiple students across grade levels test positive, then the entire school could be closed for 10 days of remote learning. If more than two classes have a positive case in a grade level, then the district will send the entire grade level home for 10 school days of remote learning.

“Parents should screen at home first and rapidly respond to requests to pick up a sick student,” according to the plan.

While parents are encouraged to find alternative transportation — like walking, biking or parent driving — buses will still be available to students. All passengers and the driver will be required to wear face coverings, riders will be kept as far apart as possible, windows will be open as much as possible, and busses will be disinfected between routes.

Sanitizing duty

Classes will also be sanitized throughout the day by teachers and support staff, and custodians will be disinfecting buildings each night. Special attention will be paid to high touch surfaces like doorknobs, faucet handles, check-in counters, restrooms, work surfaces, desks and tables.

“Use of hands of teaching material will be minimized,” according to the plan. “Students will be assigned their own Chromebook to reduce sharing.”

Carpets will be vacuumed using HEPA filters and high-touch outdoor surfaces made of plastic or metal will be cleaned routinely.

“We will maximize distance, align desks and tables, and make use of every inch of space,” the school distract states.

Remote learning

An option for families will be to keep students enrolled in neighborhood schools while utilizing remote learning. Remote learning moves traditional in-person instruction to an online method of delivery. Teachers still lead instruction, interact with students, and communicate regularly with students and parents.

In a remote model, schools maintain class schedules as much as possible, take regular attendance, maintain regular grading practices and assignments of regular school. Remote learning will be the primary method of instruction in the event of temporary school closures due to COVID-19, but parents may opt in/out of this model when needed. 

Eagle County Schools will accommodate remote learning in all schools for families who want to maintain connection with neighborhood schools and value the relationships with teachers and peers. Students can follow along with their traditional classroom activities via internet connected devices so they can make a smooth transition back into the classroom when conditions permit. 

Online learning and World Academy

ECS also offers a complete online mode of instruction delivered through the World Academy online school. World Academy is largely self-directed, self-paced, and features minimal teacher interaction. Parents considering homeschooling should use World Academy to access a proven curriculum aligned to district standards. Many students in middle and high schools also use World Academy for enrichment and credit recovery while remaining enrolled in their neighborhood school.

Students enrolled in World Academy, or through remote learning in their neighborhood schools, can maintain involvement in school sports and activities. 

ECS will hold two information sessions this week on Thursday. Meeting details can be found below. Please submit your questions specific to World Academy ahead of time using this Google Form.

World Academy Information Session – English / 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
   • +1 (219) 281-4837, PIN: 429 386 984#

World Academy Information Session – Spanish / 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
   • +1 (401) 379-3947, PIN: ‪608 438 826#

— Earlier reporting from John LaConte was used in this story.

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