GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- In an interview with KREX 5/ Fox 4 on Monday, School District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko said 70 percent of D51 parents are in favor of students returning to the classroom in the fall. This, according to a recent survey conducted by the school district.
This week, D51 is surveying teachers on how they feel about returning in the fall, and those results should be in by the end of the week.
D51 is aiming for in-person learning to resume, but there could be a hybrid model of partially online, and partially in person. This approach could be attractive to students and teachers who may not be able to return due to medical conditions or family concerns.
“We have some teachers who are unable to return to work because they have medically fragile issues,” Superintendent Diana Sirko said. “So then those teachers would be doing a remote learning option.”
KREX 5/ Fox 4 has also learned from from D51, officials are recommending elementary school students wear masks but not requiring it. This brings up the question of staff who may be uncomfortable returning to the classroom.
“It’s a different issue for staff where they need to have some proof of a reason that they cannot medically return to school,” Sirko said. “But for our parents, we offer all kinds of choice options across the school district.”
Sirko emphasizes, regardless of what the district ends up doing for the fall semester, if a student’s parent is uncomfortable with them returning to a classroom, the district will work to accommodate their needs.
A D51 teacher and member of D51’s teachers’ union, Mesa Valley Education Association, says he’s still uncertain as of right now.
“I have very mixed emotions about this fall,” said 6th grade Orchard Mesa Middle School teacher Kevin LaDuke. “I always want to look out for the safety of all children. I want to look out for the safety of all of our staff and make sure everybody is healthy.”
LaDuke teaches social studies and science. He says this time of uncertainty is stressful for educators, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the Western Slope.
“Many teachers are fearful of what’s coming up especially as we’re continually watching that, we were really low on numbers to begin with, but now suddenly we’re starting to see a spike.”
LaDuke adds, the Mesa Valley Education Association is working closely with the school district to come to an agreement on a plan that maintains a quality education experience, while also keeping public health needs in mind.
When asked what the district would do about a teacher who does not have an underlying medical issue who is too concerned to teach in person, Diana Sirko says that will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“We will deal with each of those as they come up and see what can we do, what can’t we do, because we also need to have enough people to serve our students.”
On July 21, D51 will hold a school board meeting and present in greater detail the plans for the fall. Broadly speaking, Sirko says the plan will include staggered passing periods, more hand washing stations, and modified lunch periods to enhance social distancing and cleanliness. This, however, is subject to change depending on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future.