Attempting to limit the spread of coronavirus in the city, Denver Public Schools is shutting down for three weeks. The closure will begin on Monday, March 16, and last until April 6 for staff and April 7 for students.
"That time will allow us to have facility teams come to disinfect our schools," Susana Cordova, the school district's superintendent, said during a press conference late on March 12.
DPS is characterizing the closure as a two-week extension of spring break. Denver students would typically go on break for a week at the end of March.
School buildings will be open on March 16 and March 17 so that families can gather students' belongings, but no classes will take place.
"A period of time in which the schools are closed is one of the measures we can use to protect both the children themselves and the broader community," said William Burman, an infectious-disease doctor from Denver Health. He noted that there is now community spread of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, in Denver.
Transmission of the virus falls into the community-spread category when "individuals who didn’t travel someplace else...have this virus," according to Burman.
Cordova said that while the district won't be offering remote learning during this three-week break, if the school closures are extended, she and her staff would reconsider that.
Additionally, Cordova said that she'd be coordinating with state education officials regarding possible make-up time for students.
Other school districts in metro Denver are closing schools for a few weeks, including Cherry Creek and Aurora. Jeffco Public Schools will close all school facilities from March 16 through March 20; the scheduled spring break is March 23 through March 27.
The decision to close Denver Public Schools came shortly after Mayor Michael Hancock declared a state of emergency regarding the coronavirus. There are 49 confirmed cases in Colorado, and ten of those are in Denver.
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"As well as issuing the emergency declaration, Mayor Hancock is discouraging large gatherings from taking place within the City and County of Denver to protect public health and safety and mitigate potential spread of COVID-19," the mayor's office announced.
On March 10, Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency throughout Colorado, which will allow the state to qualify for possible financial assistance in handling the coronavirus outbreak.
Here's the letter that Cordova sent to DPS parents this evening:
Dear DPS Families:
Today we have made the difficult decision to move to an extended spring break for all DPS schools, including charter schools. It is never easy to make a call like this, but we did so on the advice of medical experts to ensure that we are supporting the health and well-being of all of our students, staff and families. This extended spring break will start Monday, March 16, and continue until students return on Tuesday, April 7. This decision was made after detailed and thorough discussions with our Board of Education, the City of Denver, Denver Department of Public Health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and other organizations around the city and state in response to growing concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19).
Our schools will be open and operating on a regular schedule tomorrow, Friday, March 13, and we will use the day to help students and families transition to the extended spring break that starts on Monday, March 16. All before- and afterschool care, including Discovery Link camps, will be canceled March 16 until April 7 when students return to school. Please note, those schools that are already closed because of a related confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) will remain closed to students March 13 through April 6.
All school buildings will be open on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 with limited staff available. These days will not be used for instruction, but instead will give families more time to come into school buildings and get any items that they may need for the extra time off, such as picking up medications from the school nurse.
School buildings will then be closed for students from Wednesday, March 18 through Monday, April 6. During that time, essential personnel will do the important disinfecting that needs to be done to ensure the building is ready for staff to return April 6, and students to return April 7.
We are still monitoring what this will mean for the school year and are continuing to look into what this will look like moving ahead. We will share more information as soon as it’s available.
Thank you for your support in helping to keep our students healthy and safe.