Hayden, Soroco resume school in person next week while Steamboat continues hybrid learning
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Students across Routt County will return to classrooms from winter break next week amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them will be at school every day.
After Halloween, positive cases of COVID-19 at Steamboat Springs High School forced the campus to shift to remote learning, and prior to the Thanksgiving break, the Hayden School District sent students home because of cases in the classroom.
Just two weeks ago, students at Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School also shifted to remote learning, and students in the South Routt School District went to winter break earlier than planned when cases within the schools forced teachers and students to quarantine.
But the holiday break provided schools an opportunity to reset, allowing all students in Routt County public schools to return to classrooms in January, even if some are only in school every other day. South Routt and Hayden school districts will start school next week, continuing the every day, in-person learning they had in the fall.
Students in Steamboat will continue the hybrid model utilized during the fall semester. This splits students into cohorts sending some to school Mondays and Wednesdays and the rest to school Tuesdays and Thursdays with attendance alternating on Fridays.
The goal is to reduce the interaction between students in hopes of limiting exposure to any potential cases and avoiding the quarantines a case may cause.
After a staff day Monday, Steamboat students will return to school on Jan. 5 or Jan. 6 depending on their cohort.
It could soon change, though, as the district is looking into shifting younger students to being in school every day in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to wait two or three weeks to see how numbers turn out, and we may at that point bring back (kindergarten to second grade) every day,” said Mark Rydberg, finance director for the district.
Rydberg said the idea behind waiting a few weeks is to see what effect the holidays have on the spread of the virus locally and how much impact potential cases would have on the school.
If things go well, Rydberg said the district could expand to bring back third through fifth grade a few weeks after that. It all will depend on prevalence of the virus and recommendations from local public health officials, he said.
“Our goal is to get kids back in school as soon as we think it is safe for both students and staff,” Rydberg said.
Students in both the South Routt and Hayden school districts will be back in school every day at all grade levels Jan. 4 as they largely were in the fall. Each superintendent credited some of its district’s success at keeping students in school to smaller enrollments.
“We can do it simply because of our numbers,” said Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner. “That is the beauty with being a small school right now, is that we can have everybody together.”
Rim Watson, superintendent at the South Routt School District agreed with Sinner, saying his district was able to do some things because of its size that larger districts cannot.
“A larger district, having a hybrid model, which has students attending every other day, would still have more students on campus each day than we do with our entire enrollment attending daily,” Watson said.
He also gave credit to the community for following the county’s commitments to containment, which helped ensure the district could maintain in-person instruction.
Both Sinner and Watson said they are closely working with state and local health officials to guide decision making.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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