Jared Polis launches fund to better Colorado education during pandemic

Despite new COVID restrictions, Polis urges Colorado schools to stay open

Even as more Colorado school districts announce moves to remote learning, Gov. Jared Polis urged schools to remain open at least for preschool and elementary students while promising resources to help make that possible.
Polis made the push during a Tuesday news conference in which he laid out new restrictions on businesses while stopping short of a stay-at-home order. The restrictions do not apply to schools, and Polis outlined plans to provide schools with additional funding for outdoor classrooms, testing, and protective equipment.
He also announced he will call a special session to ask state lawmakers to set more aside money meant to help the state’s economy, including funds to support childcare providers.
“Whatever schools and districts need to be able to get back safely, we want to support that,” Polis said.
Amid an alarming increase in cases, at least 20 of the state’s 30 largest school districts have already switched to remote learning or plan to do so after Thanksgiving. A number of smaller suburban and rural districts have done so as well. Many school districts have pointed to operational challenges related to staffing and quarantines in making the decision to go remote.
Polis said he wants districts to keep pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students in class despite an increase in outbreaks and more counties moving to stricter state guidelines meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Polis said data shows transmission in elementary schools is lower than many other activities.
“We feel that based on the data,” Polis said, “for many families and for many kids, that is the safest place they can be with the safety parameters that we have at school.”
Meanwhile, middle schools can do either in-person or remote, but high-risk areas such as high schools and higher education institutions should limit in-person classes for students, Polis said.
Polis did not answer a direct question about how the state could help districts with operational challenges. He reiterated that he wants districts to offer in-person education at all levels on the state’s dial system, which sets restrictions based on a number of metrics related to community transmission and hospital capacity.
Colorado coronavirus cases have ballooned to record highs in recent weeks, including in the number of cases and overall positivity rate among Coloradans. Polis said this is the riskiest it has been for Colorado since the start of the pandemic.

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