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Return to Learn Update: 2/25/2021

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Dear Thompson Community:

Over the past several weeks, significant progress has been made locally in the fight against COVID-19.  The overall testing positivity rate has declined and while officials at the Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment remain cautious, they are encouraged by many of the data points that they are monitoring within the community.

Throughout the pandemic, Thompson School District staff members have been dedicated to offering an educational option that allows students to safely attend school as often as possible.   Our promise to families throughout the pandemic has been to continue to advocate and work toward solutions that will allow students to return to full in-person learning.  Now, thanks to several factors that are in place, we are excited to announce that middle school and high school students will return to a full five-day Monday through Friday in-person schedule beginning on Monday, March 22.  Please note that the adjustment will not impact students enrolled in Thompson Connect Online.  This decision is being made in coordination with Poudre School District and Estes Park School District in order to help ensure a smooth transition for our families and community members, many of whom travel throughout the region. The plans have also been endorsed by Larimer County health officials.

“Our goal has been to get students back to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. We’ve worked closely with our school districts throughout this pandemic and have confidence that their COVID-19 protocols prioritize the health and safety of the students and staff, “ said Tom Gonzales, Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment public health director. 

Why Now? What Has Changed?

Thompson School District staff firmly believe that in-person instruction is the most beneficial for students.  The current hybrid system in our middle and high schools has provided additional safety for students and staff through smaller cohort sizes and the ability for the district to help minimize the impact of isolations and quarantines.  The decision to bring students back to a full in-person schedule is based on the following:

-COVID-19 Testing Positivity Rate
As of February 24, Larimer County’s “14-Day Test Positive Percent” is at 4.4%.  This number is substantially lower than earlier this season when the rate was over 10%.  What this means is that the detectable impact of the virus has lessened in recent weeks, thanks in part to steps that our community took to help mitigate the spread. Meanwhile, our Thompson School District specific percent positivity rate is also 4.4% for students and staff.

-A Drop In School-Related Isolations and Quarantines
When TSD made the difficult decision in November to move to a full virtual schedule on a temporary basis, it was made in large part due to the number of isolations and quarantines of students and staff members and the impact that they had on the district’s substitute staff pool. Recent changes to quarantine and isolation rules have created more flexibility for the district and our enhanced safety measures have also led to a large decrease in the numbers over the past few weeks. Additionally, data shows that COVID-19 transmission is occurring within the community outside of the campuses and no confirmed positive cases have come from our school settings.

-Vaccine Availability
Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently authorized an adjustment to the state’s vaccine eligibility criteria, which elevated PreK-12 educators on the list. Thanks to partnerships with UCHealth, Kaiser Permanente and Banner Health, many Thompson School District staff members have already received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is an important step, as it will help enhance safety for all who are in our schools and it will also help ensure that we have adequate substitute staff to assist when needed. “Vaccinations for our educators have been a priority for Larimer County and getting them vaccinated will ensure their safety and staffing continuity within our schools,” said Gonzales.

-The 4th Quarter Begins on March 22
This provides a natural start date for the district to transition students back into the classroom in a full five-day schedule.

How Will This Impact the Schools?

Staff members have worked with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment to ensure that reasonable steps are being taken to keep students and staff safe as we move to this important phase.  They include the following:

-In general, TSD will continue to utilize the safety protocols that are already in place.

-Face masks or face coverings will continue to be required for all students and staff members.

-Social distancing of students will continue to be enforced to the extent possible. The guidance is to maximize spacing between students, with a goal of a minimum of three feet of spacing between students or as much as possible.

-School district staff members will continue to utilize enhanced cleaning procedures. Daily disinfection of high-use areas throughout the buildings will occur, including multiple daily restroom disinfections.

What’s Next?

In the next few weeks, district schools will communicate additional information to families about this adjustment.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your school.

While district staff are extremely confident in the ability to return to full in-person instruction on March 22 as planned, please note that we will continue to partner with health department officials and will communicate any adjustments that become necessary.

Thank you for your support,
Thompson School District