Update: Return to In-Person Learning

Update: Return to In-Person Learning
December 9, 2020 GWHS

Dear GW Community –

As Superintendent Cordova shared yesterday evening, DPS is committed to bringing secondary students who opted for in-person learning back to school buildings by February. DPS also shared that secondary families can request a change to their learning option(either in-person or virtual) until Sunday, December 13. Families that don’t take action will remain enrolled in their current learning option through the end of the school year.

We are excited at the prospect of bringing students together for in-person learning and committed to building a meaningful learning experience for all students. DPS has developed new scheduling options for high schools that provide more flexibility in regards to scheduling. At the same time, we want to be upfront about the challenges we are earnestly trying to solve right now. We also want to be clear that we don’t have all the answers today, and will be spending the next six weeks creating and fine-tuning our plan.

When health conditions allow for students to return for hybrid-learning, the following guardrails as defined by DPS, in collaboration with Denver Health, will be in place:

  • Classes will operate with 17 or fewer students in-person and live stream remote/virtual students.
  • Students can rotate to their classes during their in-person days two days a week.
  • Each individual class must follow DCTA classroom maximums of 35, including students in person and live streaming.
  • Teachers can have a maximum exposure of 136 in-person students (up to 8 groups of in-person students containing up to 17 in-person students in each group).
  • Hallways must be set up to support one-way direction flow when possible, or two way direction flow with adequate distance among groups to avoid student crossover and congregating.
  • Lunch must be eaten in a classroom with a teacher, students may not leave campus.
  • All classes must maintain accurate seating charts and require daily adherence to the seating chart to support Targeted Contact Identification in the case of a COVID exposure.
  • Students in grades 6-12 should be socially distanced a minimum of 3 feet; greater distance is encouraged if possible.


What this would look like at GW:

  • Class Offerings: In a hybrid model, students will maintain the classes they are scheduled to attend in Quarters 3 and 4 – there will be no changes to our course offerings.
  • Class Schedule: We would follow an AA/BB hybrid schedule where 50% of our students would attend in-person two days a week. Students would attend each of their classes in-person two days a week with the instructor of record (except those instructors who have remote-work accommodations). There would be two additional days of live, virtual instruction. Wednesdays would remain asynchronous learning with targeted student supports, and AP/IB test preparation sessions.
  • Instruction: Teachers will be responsible for instructing both in-person and virtual students simultaneously. Even though students will be in a classroom with their instructor, the majority of instruction would be conducted through the computer. Students coming for in-person learning will be required to have their computer for each class they attend.
  • Lunch: Teachers are required to have a 45-minute duty-free lunch. Because the guardrails specify that lunch must be in a classroom monitored by a licensed staff member, we would not be able to meet this contractual obligation for our teachers.That means that in a hybrid model, we would likely move our live instruction to the morning and dismiss students at lunch to return home for a consolidated set of time for Teacher Directed Independent Study (TDIS).
  • Community Learning: Students will continue to attend daily Community Learning Seminar, though we are not sure if this would be virtual or in person.
  • Special Education: All special education center based programs will return to 100% in-person learning for those who selected this option.


There are four significant challenges that we are currently trying to solve: 

  • Staffing: 25% of our licensed faculty have received an accommodation to remain remote if we return to in-person learning. This means that no matter what format we return to in-person, classes taught by these instructors will be virtual. We need additional licensed staff members to manage these classrooms for students who are accessing their virtual teacher.
  • Planning For Teacher Absences: We have been assigned one dedicated guest teacher. In the virtual-learning environment, teacher absences are handled by assigning asynchronous lessons for the students. During in-person learning, if one teacher is absent and we are not able to provide a substitute, students would be required to stay home to complete asynchronous work since we will not have licensed adults available to monitor the classroom.
  • Off Periods for Students: In the quarter-block schedule model, students have at least one off period over the course of the year. Students who have off periods during Quarter 3 and 4 will be assigned a classroom with a licensed staff member during this time. Currently, we are short on staff available to monitor in-person classrooms.
  • Maintaining Consistency: We feel strongly that consistency is key to student success during the pandemic. We are concerned that moving in and out of in-person learning as the need to quarantine will inevitably arise will create interruptions and confusion for students and staff. We are examining how we can best offer in-person learning while maintaining as much consistency as possible for our community.


As a leadership team we are collaborating with our faculty’s instructional leaders and principals across DPS to develop the best plan possible for returning to in-person learning when health conditions allow. We know that this is an incredibly challenging time, and we all want to be together again, learning and growing in-person, and for the first time it feels like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We will continue to update you as we move through this planning process, and we appreciate your patience as we navigate these next steps in planning for a safe and meaningful return to in-person learning.

Kristin Waters, Ph.D.
Principal | George Washington High School