Denver Public Schools will shift its remaining in-person learning to online beginning Nov. 30, Superintendent Susana Cordova said in a letter Tuesday, a month after the district moved its youngest learners back into the classroom.
"COVID rates are dangerously high outside of schools in many parts of Denver, which prompted Gov. Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock to announce stronger measures yesterday to try and get the community spread under control," Cordova, who announced last week that she would be leaving the district, wrote. "This action, however, did not come soon enough to allow us to sustain staffing for in-person learning in our schools for the rest of the first semester."
The district will move its remaining students online beginning Nov. 30 and will keep them out of the classroom through the rest of this semester. Even older students who had previously been allowed to continue in person -- English language learners and special education students specifically -- will also move online.
Cordova wrote that the district is "committed" to having in-person education in January, including for secondary students, who are more at risk for infection and illness than younger leaners.
The district had started the school year with students learning remotely. But it planned to being bringing students back into the classroom in late October. That plan was partially spiked, as the spike of cases that's currently plaguing the state first began to take shape. By the end of November, only the youngest learners, up through second grade, were still in Denver classrooms.
Cordova and others said that those youngest students needed as much in-person learning as possible, given their reading needs. But officials have also said that the significant spread from within the community means that teachers are getting sick at higher rates, which in turn pulls them out of the classroom and disrupts that learning.
Though there's thus far been little evidence that students and staff are getting sick in class, Cordova wrote that the district "is seeing over 300 cases per week among students and staff who are in-person."
"This deeply challenges our ability to operate our schools," she said. "And we’ve already had to close many schools because we lack the staff to run them, due to required quarantines and the shortage of available substitutes."
In a statement, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association said it supported the decision, and the group thanked the board.
"There is no place a teacher wants to be more than in their classrooms with their students," the group wrote. "We are hopeful that increased restrictions will contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 so we can get back to in-person learning sooner. We remain dedicated to providing quality-learning environments to students in any environment."