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Note from Superintendent Swanson: Nov. 9, 2020

Dear Westminster Community,

These are difficult times, but as I shared with you in a video I recorded when we decided to move to two weeks of remote learning, I believe we will get through this by supporting one another with patience and a sense of gratitude for what we have been able to accomplish together.

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is just around the corner.

To better explain our decision to move to remote learning from November 2 to 16, I thought it would make sense to share with you a letter I shared with one of our wonderful WPS parents who questioned why we made the decision we did. In the best tradition of WPS, his initial letter was polite and respectful in tone, but he also made it clear that he wanted answers. 

Here is my response:

Thank you for reaching out to me and sharing your thoughts about our decision to transition to remote learning for a two-week period. I apologize if you perceived our communication as not transparent. Throughout this whole pandemic, we have worked very hard to share information, including a daily updated district dashboard for our families and community members to see, at a glance, what the in-school district numbers reflect. As frustrating as it is every time a positive case shows up in our schools, we have aggressively followed our plan and flipped a class, a cohort, or even a school, to remote learning for quarantine purposes and sometimes operational purposes if quarantines have taken too many staff off the floor to be able to run the school logistically.

I share your frustration with this two-week system-wide remote learning decision. This was a difficult decision for many reasons, including the fact that WPS has been one of the earliest and strongest voices for in-person learning benefits, offering two choices for our families, and on a personal level, my role as a grandmother of two grandchildren in our district. However, I think this is the correct decision for this time. As I write this, I fully intend for (your children) to be back in the classroom on November 16th and hope this two-week “reset” will help us accomplish that goal.

As you may be aware, on October 13th, Adams County, in consultation with the Tri-County Health Department, submitted a COVID-19 mitigation plan (Pledge to Protect) to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in response to the continuing spread of the virus within our community. 

At the time, Adams County had moved to “Level 3 - Safer at Home” status and it was hoped that the mitigation efforts, along with a public relations campaign might reverse or slow the spread of the virus and prevent the imposition of closures and restrictions. WPS provided an extensive briefing before the Board of Education and joined Adams County Commissioner, Emma Pinter, in creating a message to the community stating that the continued spread of the virus jeopardized our ability to continue with in-person learning. 

As the virus continued to spread, on October 23rd, Adams County announced that because of “Skyrocketing COVID-19 cases” the county would officially have Level 3 go into effect on October 28th. 

While the “Level-3 Safer at Home” directive recommended that schools move to remote/hybrid learning, we were allowed a certain amount of flexibility in choosing how to proceed. It was our intent to proceed with in-person learning. However, because the spread of the virus in the community continued to escalate and the number of COVID-19 cases within our schools began to rise, Chief Operating Officer, Dr. James Duffy, and I spoke at length with Dr. John Douglas, Executive Director of Tri-County Health, on Wednesday to reevaluate our strategy. At the same time, many of our teachers expressed their alarm at the rising numbers within the WPS footprint. 

The consensus view was that by taking a proactive step to move to remote learning for two weeks we might be able to bend the curve in a favorable direction for our schools. Two weeks is also not an arbitrary number but a common metric used by health officials to allow the virus and quarantine to abate. That is where we stand right now. I agree with you that it is not ideal, but we hope this strategy works so we can continue to keep our in-person learning system going. There remains a distinct possibility that Adams County could move to “Stay at Home” status which would not allow for any in-person learning. That is my greatest worry.

Please know I have and will continue to advocate that in-person schools are essential for the well-being of our community. I sent out the message below, which includes a link to a video after you wrote your message to me. 

I didn’t want to overwhelm you with data, but if you would like to look at the statistics, here are the relevant links.

WPS COVID-19 Dashboard

Tri-County COVID-19 Dashboard

State of Colorado Dashboard with county breakdown

Please let me know if you have further questions or comments.

The father wrote me back with a nice note thanking me for the detailed response and he told me how appreciative he was of all we were doing to protect and educate his children.

His thoughtful response came at the end of a trying week and it was a wonderful reminder, for me personally, of the special bond that exists between educators, parents and children.

Kindest regards,

Dr. Pamela Swanson

Superintendent of Schools.