COVID-19 Closes Frederick High

In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, St. Vrain has sent students home to learn

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Source: The CDC

All St. Vrain Valley Schools and Boulder Valley Schools were closed on Friday, March 13, prompted by a single positive case of COVID-19 in Boulder Valley. According to a message to the community by St. Vrain Superintendent Dr. Don Haddad, “At the strong recommendation of Boulder Public Health, we will be closing all schools in St. Vrain beginning tomorrow, March 13, 2020 through the end of Spring Break.” School is planned to resume on March 30, but the opening may be delayed as more cases of COVID-19 appear in the district.

 

What led to the closure

Originating in the Hunan market in southwestern China, COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus) started to spread throughout China in January and in the last seven weeks has been found in nearly every country in the world. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that attacks the sinuses and lungs. COVID-19 is very easy to catch and has no known vaccine. While the elderly and people with chronic heart or respiratory conditions are at the highest risk of death, the disease has killed nearly 3,000 people worldwide, with an average mortality rate of four times that of influenza. Earlier this month, the United Nations declared the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, and in the past two weeks, the United States has gone from a single case on February 29 to over 2,500 confirmed cases as of the time of this writing.

As the pandemic spread across the country and the world, Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday after the fifteenth case of the virus was confirmed in the state. This was followed Wednesday with the University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, and several other colleges deciding to cancel face-to-face classes and use digital learning to finish out the semester. Thursday, members of the public in Longmont were screened for the virus near Silver Creek High School. As a case of COVID-19 from that screening was confirmed Tuesday evening, Dr. Haddad made the decision to close all district schools. The move was fortuitous, as the following day, Governor Polis ordered that all gatherings of 250 people or more needed to be canceled throughout the state, and nearly every school district in Colorado is now shut down for the next couple of weeks.

 

The next two weeks…

Frederick High staff met on Friday to go over plans for the two-week shutdown of the building. “We’re treating [the next seven days] like a snow day,” Frederick Principal Brian Young told the staff. ”No one comes into the building, everything’s shut down. However, learning can still go on during snow days.” Individual teachers have discretion to finish up the work they were doing before break or to freeze learning in a class—the same as they do for a snow day. Young told us that “we are giving teachers professional discretion” to determine what students must do during this lost week of school. In general, he said that students in AP and honors should expect learning to continue over this two-week shutdown, as well as those in some core classes and journalism.

This is not to say grades are frozen during this time. “This is a great time for makeup work,” Young told us. He encouraged Frederick students to use the next two weeks to work ahead on major projects coming up after break or to catch up on missing work. Similarly, teachers were encouraged to get their gradebooks updated and communicate with students to get all missing items turned in. Part of the March 13 meeting was used as a chance for teachers to get any ungraded work or curricular materials needed during this shutdown out of the building.

If teachers left something behind though, then they are out of luck. Until March 30, the building is closed. Head custodian Andrew Barela and his crew are spending the next couple of days deep cleaning and disinfecting the school before a professional cleaning team comes in during break to guaranteed decontamination. No one—not even staff—will be allowed into Frederick High for any reason. “Today and tomorrow, the building is being sealed and cleaned,” Mr. Young said. “If that is violated, everyone is put at risk. And we cannot have that.” This quarantine includes the outdoor athletic facilities as well, such as the stadium, track, and tennis courts. “This virus can survive in the open air and on surfaces for days. We can’t take any chances, even with those outdoor facilities.”

As the facilities are shut down, all athletic practices, games, club meetings, concerts, and arts rehearsals are canceled until April 6. Due to the high risk of infection through person-to-person contact, coaches and club sponsors have been told that they cannot congregate students outside of class. Students should even refrain from working on group projects in person to slow the spread of COVID-19. “If a bunch of students want to get together in someone’s basement, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Frederick Athletic and Activities Director Leroy Lopez told the staff. “But that isn’t something any of [Frederick’s coaches and club sponsors] will be encouraging.” Athletes are encouraged to keep up their diet and training regimens at home, and club members are encouraged to stay in touch digitally.

While it is shut down, Frederick will be one of eleven SVVSD schools that will become a district-to-community resource site. From Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20, food insecure students and staff can get breakfast and lunch items at Frederick from 11 AM-12:30 PM. Students are also encouraged to spend time in Frederick’s parking lot during daylight hours if they lack internet access at home and need free wi-fi. “The district is looking at the feasibility of putting a wireless booster on the building this weekend, so students that have limited access at home with have a district resource available,” Mr. Young said. “You can just pull into the parking lot and log onto district wi-fi.” Given that public libraries and other city places with free internet may be shutting down as COVID-19 spreads, these signal amplifiers will go a long way to ensure an equity of access for all students.

 

…And the weeks after that

After these next two weeks, SVVSD hopes to open doors to students and staff again on Monday, March 30. However, given the ever-evolving and unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and its infection rate, the district has put plans in place if the shutdown goes longer. Dr. Haddad and other district administrators will watch how COVID-19 spreads and make a decision about whether students will be back in the building on March 30 based on the recommendations of both the Colorado Department of Education and Boulder Public Health. Either all schools will open or none will, as lingering cases have the potential to reinfect the entire system.

Yesterday, Frederick High staff met with SVVSD K-12 Math coordinator Greg George to go over plans for what will happen if schools remain closed after March 30. Essentially, staff will use Schoology, Frederick’s learning management system, as its main tool to assign and collect work from students. Teachers will also use email to contact students and parents as they always have. As far as lessons, teachers will be trusted to use their knowledge as professionals to do what’s best for each class. Some teachers on Friday talked about using video lectures, while others discussed implementing digital tests or video submission projects. A few teachers looked at digital resources like the Sora app and Kanopy (the public library’s free streaming service) to assign content while many talked about using discussion boards.  “We’re asking teachers to be in a readiness phase,” Greg George said. “We’re telling them, ‘Don’t be thinking you have to be planning this out today. Just be thinking of what this can look like.’”

One additional measure will be the introduction of office hours via a free Sysco app called Webex. “At the same time each day, every teacher will be available via the Webex software to interact digitally with students and give them one-on-one help,” Mr. Young told us. He and the Frederick administration are working on an office hours schedule over the next couple of days that will be sent out to parents and students if school will remain closed after March 30.  Webex will also be used for Frederick staff meetings and professional development, and Mr. Young has also encouraged coaches and club sponsors to use Webex to virtually meet (the school play has already gone to having virtual rehearsals using the software). “We take for granted that we see students every day. This new [at-home] environment will challenge us to make real connections to our students,” Young said.

Frederick’s role as a district-to-community resource site would continue during a prolonged shutdown, with nutrition services resuming on March 30. Additionally, the resource site may be a place for students with insufficient network access at home to pick up district-created print resources for learning in their core classes.

As for other questions about what a longer shutdown would mean for sports or theatre, for the SAT or AP testing, for Prom or Graduation—it is simply too early to say. “We are waiting for the latest updates from College Board [who oversees the SAT and AP testing], the federal government, and Governor Polis,” Mr. Young said. “We’ve been working hard on managing our response in this moment, so [planning for] April and May will need to wait.” However, Mr. Young and the administration were firm in their resolve that they will make sure this shutdown impacts students as little as possible. “We’re going to do our best to maintain our traditions and experiences that our seniors rely on to make their last year special,” he said.

According to Mr. Young, the best way to stay up to date on shutdown is by checking your email once a day for district updates. “Enjoy yourself this spring break, but every once in awhile, peek at your email.” We will also repost all district updates and communication to the community on the Frederick Scout, and repost it to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Make sure to subscribe to the Scout on social media to get those updates and more local-focused news and articles as this situation develops. Our Scout staff of students are working through the crisis to make sure our entire community stays connected.