UPDATE: Return to In-Person Learning

UPDATE: Return to In-Person Learning
September 22, 2020 GWHS

Dear GW Community –

I am writing today to share an update on the District’s plans for returning to in-person learning. While we don’t have details on what GW’s plan will be, I want to share the specific guidance that school leaders received this past Friday and this morning. To support school planning, the District has asked families to make a decision about returning to in-person learning by Wednesday, September 23. If you are satisfied with your current selection, no action is required on your part, but if you would like to change your learning option for Quarter 2, please complete the GW’s Learning Option Change Form HERE.

When students return, the following guardrails as defined by DPS, in collaboration with Denver Health, will be in place:

  • Each student can belong to one academic cohort (group) that cannot exceed 35 students
  • Student cohorts must be maintained for at least the duration of Quarter 2
  • Teachers may interact with up to 2 student cohorts
  • Every individual must wear a mask at all times, and adhere to social distancing of at least 3 feet
  • Every individual will receive a health screen prior to entering the school building

Layered into these guardrails are the following requirements from DPS leadership:

  • Students will receive a minimum of 10 hours of in-person interaction each week
  • Students will receive 3.5 hours of live instruction daily (this could be virtual or in-person) (please note this has recently been amended and approved for GW’s virtual schedule to allow for asynchronous Wednesdays)
  • Students will receive daily Social Emotional Learning (at GW this is Community Learning Seminar)
  • Teachers will be required to teach to the in-person students while simultaneously teaching to the students who have opted for virtual learning
  • All special education center based programs will return to 100% in-person learning

Where we see significant challenges in meeting these requirements while adhering to the guardrails are:

  • Travel Time: As students would not be in the school building all day, we would need to build significant travel time in our daily schedule which will lengthen the day or eliminate classes from the schedule, potentially impacting overall graduation requirements.
  • Student Schedules: We feel strongly that eliminating courses or reducing instructional class time is not in the best interest of our students, however it may be necessary in order to meet each of these requirements simultaneously.
  • Meaningful Interaction: With these guardrails in place, even if students are in the building, they will still be accessing the majority of their instruction virtually.
  • Classroom Management: In the scheduling model shared by DPS, it is proposed that students gather in a cohort of 35 students to access their various classes virtually, and at the same time the teacher who is managing that classroom would simultaneously lead their own virtual classroom for a different group of students.
  • Internet Bandwidth: While we have a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure in our building, it has never supported 1000+ individuals conducting GoogleMeets at the same time. This is an unknown variable that we are working to proactively address.
  • Planning For Teacher Absences: We have been assigned one dedicated guest teacher, and this individual cannot serve more than 2 cohorts in a row without a 72 hour break from student interaction. 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 work asynchronous since we will not have licensed adults available to monitor the classroom.
  • Virtual Only Teachers: 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.
  • Teacher Contract Day: Contractually, we are not able to exceed a 40 hour work week, and within that time we must provide 5.75 hours of planning and daily duty-free 45-minute lunch period. At GW, we have always built more than the minimum amount of planning time for teachers, and in a hybrid model, we believe that even more planning time is necessary.

As a leadership team we are collaborating with our faculty’s instructional leaders and principals across DPS to address the significant challenges these guardrails create. District leadership is providing additional in-person scheduling guidance for secondary schools by end of day tomorrow. We hope this information clarifies how we can meet the guardrails and requirements while maintaining the integrity of our students’ school day and providing worthwhile in-person interaction and learning.

We know that this is an incredibly challenging time, and we all want to be together again, learning and growing in-person. We know that the conditions outlined above are less than ideal. We will continue to update you as we move through this planning process, and we appreciate your patience as we navigate the significant challenges schools face in planning for a safe and meaningful return to in-person learning.

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