Jeffco students push back against plan to restore 100% in-person learning at middle, high schools



Jeffco Public Schools is weighing the possibility of reinstating full-time, in-person learning for middle and high schoolers before the end of the spring semester. But many students say they don’t think that’s a good idea.

Nearly 1,500 students, parents and teachers submitted a petition to the district’s board of education Monday, advocating they wait until August to institute a 100% in-person model at the secondary level. The board of education is set to discuss the matter at a special meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Sixth through 12th graders in Colorado’s second largest school district currently attend on a hybrid schedule, in which students go to in-person classes two days per week. On Fridays, all students complete work remotely.

Morgan Fritzler, a junior at Lakewood High School, started the petition with fellow students Spencer Wilcox and Campbell Preston out of concern for what resuming full-time in-person instruction would look like.

Right now, Fritzler’s classes have about 15 people in each. If classes returned to full size, there would not be adequate room for social distancing, she said.

“With that many people in the school, there’s an increased chance of having outbreaks and having the potential of going back to 100% remote (learning), which has been shown to decrease overall educational quality as well as student mental health,” she said.

Fritzler feels she’s finally gotten in the routine of hybrid learning. To disrupt that routine would be “very hard on kids,” she said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Jeffco Public Schools’ goal has always been to restore in-person learning, spokesperson Cameron Bell said in a statement. Almost all students started the spring semester remotely before the district began gradually bringing back kids in-person by grade. Those in preschool through fifth grade currently attend in-person four days per week, Bell said.

Jeffco middle and high schools began welcoming back students part-time in late-January. Part of the reason the district hopes to ramp up in-person learning is because its teachers now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, the statement said.

“We understand there are some in our community who do not believe we should return to 100% in-person learning. We understand not everyone will agree with decisions made,” Bell said. “But we do know that in-person learning is what’s best for kids. We will continue to offer the remote-only option for those who prefer not to take part in in-person learning.”

Jeffco Public Schools isn’t alone. Aurora Public Schools also plans to offer more in-person learning by March, said Superintendent Rico Munn. Students in grades preschool through fifth currently learn in-person four days per week. After spring break, he expects sixth through eighth graders will, too.

“At high school, so far the plan is to have every kid every day, but have a split schedule — half in the morning, half in the afternoon,” Munn said. “We’ll keep evaluating based upon community transmission and those kinds of things when and if we can do more.”