Saturday, August 8, 2020

School district unveils Return to School Handbook

Full document available on district homepage

By Kendra Walker

Last week, the Gunnison Watershed School District released its Return to School Handbook, a tool for students, parents, staff and administrators to use as a guide for school protocols moving forward in the times of COVID-19.

“This signpost on our pandemic journey marks the successful collaboration of over 60 GWSD team members on our COVID-19 Task Force, an effort like none other I’ve experienced before,” wrote superintendent Leslie Nichols in an email to the school district community. “Kudos especially to our task force director Bob Piccaro, assistant principal at Crested Butte Community School,” she wrote.

The main priorities outlined in the handbook focus on student and staff physical health and safety, social and emotional health and academic achievement and growth.

While the handbook will evolve as pandemic restrictions change within the county, state and nation, it is designed to serve as a baseline of answers for how the district will handle everything this upcoming school year—school schedules, health, logistics, communications, curriculum and technology. Detailed sanitization practices and protocols are listed for all areas of school grounds including classrooms, common areas such as cafeterias, gyms and locker rooms, transportation and for parents and visitors.

Students and staff will be expected to agree to and abide by health and safety guidelines that include daily health screenings, face coverings, handwashing, physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and updated illness protocols.

The district is currently on track for students returning to in-person classes this fall, under Gunnison County’s current Blue risk level of the Coronameter. Green, Blue and Yellow levels will allow for 100 percent brick and mortar learning, with an Orange level requiring a hybrid of in-person and online learning, with a Red level requiring 100 percent remote learning.

The district has also offered two learning options for a return in the fall: school-based blended learning combining both online and offline experiences for students, in which participants agree to the district’s COVID-19 protocols; and 100 percent online learning, free for students to complete coursework independently from any location with an adequate Internet connection.

The district has also updated its staff leave options to reflect the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, providing income replacement and job protection for COVID-19–related circumstances that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks under preexisting leave laws.

The full Return to School Handbook can be found on the district’s homepage,

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