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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

Greeley-Evans School District 6 Moves To Remote Learning As COVID-19 Cases Rise In Weld County

Jonathan Payne

On Thursday, Greeley-Evans School District 6 announced they will move to remote learning beginning Monday, Nov. 16 through the end of winter break on Jan. 5. KUNC’s Colorado Edition spoke with the district’s superintendent, Deirdre Pilch, about the decision.

Interview Highlights

These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Henry Zimmerman: Why did the district decide to move to remote learning now?

Deirdre Pilch: Well, because the data is telling us that it was time that we had to do that. The data indicates that it's really no longer safe for us to stay open with the amount of significant community spread we have here in our community and the numbers of cases we're seeing among district students and staff.

In addition, there's been a significant burden on staff and lots of staff are quarantined, and so many of our operations have begun to be difficult to run. But the biggest factor is we're just seeing this significant increase in cases here in Weld County. We're now 15% positivity rate over 775 or so cases per 100,000.

And in working with local health officials yesterday and looking at the data statewide, what became pretty apparent to me with what we're seeing here in the district that within just a matter of a few days we would begin to see significant spread within our schools. We've been pretty fortunate so far in that we've not seen a lot of intra-cohort spread. Most of our cases have been a result of contact outside of school, but we did begin at the end of last week to see some intra-school and intra-cohort spread and actually have a few of our schools that are probably considered an outbreak. We know that at least two of those are and there will be probably other schools as we continue to get through the data.

Let me ask about the students in all this. When we spoke to you back in August, we asked about why the school was beginning the year in-person. And you told us that it came down to the fact that students learn best in-person. What kind of concerns about students learning do you have going into this all remote period?

I'm very concerned about students. I'm concerned about, well, let me start with first the family.

I'm so concerned about the impact of this on our families. You know our families, many of them, most of them, rely on us to be that primary care provider during the day for the children and to provide support services for children during the school day. So learning, social, emotional support, nutrition support, sometimes health support for students, and so once we go remote, it becomes much more difficult for us to do that and we know, I know this move is a significant hardship on our community.

Our families will have to make decisions about childcare and about supervising, who will supervise their children and be with their children so that they can go to work. And I understand that right here before the holidays, this may be the most important time of year for families to continue working, and to maintain their household income. And so I'm worried about the families.

And of course, I'm worried about the learning for children. Children do learn best in-person. Just as we've turned a few of our schools fully remote we have, I don't know, a dozen or so schools right now fully remote because of the amount of folks who are quarantined in those schools or because of an outbreak. And we're already beginning to see in those schools that we have some students who we've just lost contact with that they're not logging in. We call and then they're not answering. The parents aren't answering.

So I really worry about engagement and keeping students engaged, and I’m so hopeful that parents can be there and be that facilitator that gets students online in the morning so that they can begin their learning every single day for the next three weeks of school that we have. And the reality is, I get that parents have to work, most of our parents in this community, and so I'm worried about that.

I'm worried about the businesses and the other agencies in our community who rely on our parents as workers. Because if our parents have to stay home, then those agencies don't have our parents there working to support them. You know, our hospitals need every single employee. Our doctors offices need every single employee to manage this pandemic, and I am well aware that many of my parents are their employees who help to provide the services that are needed during this pandemic.

Having said all of that, we didn't take this decision lightly at all. It was a very hard decision to make and really only made as a result of the data being very clear that it just isn't safe for our students and staff, and really for the family members of our students, for us to continue to stay open.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily look at the stories, news, people and issues important to you. It's a window to the communities along the Colorado Rocky Mountains.