Back to school
District 9-R releases plan for re-opening schools, online learning (and a combo of the two) for 2020-21

Back to school

School District 9-R has released its "Return to Learn" plan, which includes in-person, online and hybrid learning options. The 52-page plan also includes safety protocols for schools, including small-pod learning, daily self-certification, social distancing, sanitation measures and, yes, face coverings./Photo by Missy Votel

Missy Votel - 07/30/2020

It used to be that school was all about the three R’s. But this school year, it’s all about the three W’s: washing hands, wearing masks and watching your distance.

On Fri., July 24, Durango School District 9-R released a draft of its “Return to Learn” plan, which includes options for in-person instruction five days a week, online schooling and a blend of the two, which would include two days of in-school instruction. Classes in the district resume Tues., Aug. 25.

Just the Facts

What: District 9-R Family Engagement Zoom Sessions
When: Thurs.-Fri., Aug. 6-7, 7:30 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. both days
Where: / jVEU1c20xRWJ5RFltTjdyYUlkUT09; passcode: 475151
Or via iPhone one-tap: +16699006833,,83657335009#  or +12532158782,,83657335009#
(La reunión de Zoom también está disponible en Español.)

Other important dates to remember:
July 31: Publication of final adopted plan
Aug. 10: Parent selection of model of learning & transportation due
Aug. 24: Meet your teacher opportunities (format and methodology to be announced)
Aug. 25: First day of school

The draft plan is available to view on the district’s website ( The district is also soliciting feedback via a survey for school staff and parents. The district expects to release a final plan Fri., July 31. “Family engagement” sessions to go over the plan will be held Aug. 6 -7 at various times throughout the day (see breakout box.)

“In Durango, we have so much to be proud of in the way that staff, students and the community rallied during our school closure,” Durango School District Superintendent Dan Snowberger wrote. “Our plan provides quality options … It also provides important safeguards to our staff to ensure that they can also be safe. I understand perspectives about if and how school should open vary greatly. In this plan, we have attempted to provide quality options that allow families to decide what is best for them.”

The bulk of the 52-page plan concentrates on safety protocols for in-person learning. Snowberger said the plan represents current best practices of the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. These practices are based on a three-tiered system that includes:

• Yes – mask wearing of all staff and students fourth-grade and higher. (Face coverings are strongly encouraged for students in grade three and below.)

• Social distancing will be practiced throughout classrooms, with 6 feet – or as much space as possible – between desks. All desks will face the same direction, and students will be urged to keep 6 feet from others. Plexiglass will be used where distancing is impossible or in high-traffic areas.

• Students will be placed into pods or “cohorts” of the same dozen or so kids throughout the day, including lunch and recess, to the most extent possible. They will stay in the same classroom throughout the day, with teachers rotating among rooms. The schedule of daily classes will be reduced at the middle and high school level. Both of these measures are to reduce commingling in hallways and facilitate easier contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. For teachers and staff where social distancing from students is impossible, PPE gear, including gowns and N95 masks, will be provided.

• On the bus, social distancing will also be practiced, with assigned seating and masks required. Students from the same family will be asked to sit together.

• All students must “self-certify” online before boarding the bus or entering school. The certification requires 4 students to confirm they do not have a temperature over 100.4F and are not exhibiting symptoms such as chills, aches, pains, cough or loss of smell. Any student who does not self-certify at home will be screened upon entry into the school by a trained staff member, and checks will take place throughout the day.

• Start times will be staggered and multiple entrances will be utilized to avoid clustering. Sorry, high schoolers, but it’s going to be a closed campus this year, and you’ll be required to wear your school ID on your person. Every. Day. Parents will not be allowed in the building under ordinary circumstances.

• Cleaning and hand-washing/sanitizing will be implemented throughout the day, including but not limited to: entering/exiting the building and classrooms; before/after eating, recess, mask removal and touching the face; after handling shared objects; and after coughing/sneezing/ blowing nose. Surfaces will be disinfected regularly, with an emphasis on commonly touched surfaces and “cleaning breaks” throughout the day. Schools will provide the cleaning supplies.

• Staff or students with COVID-19 symptoms will be relocated to an established, isolated room (not the health room, as this must be kept open) until they can safely leave the building. With a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district will coordinate with San Juan Basin Public Health to determine the correct course of action on a case-by-case basis. This may include ceasing in-person instruction for a period of time.

The school district said the plan was based on the latest scientific evidence, which suggests younger children play a smaller role in transmitting COVID-19 and the risk of COVID and the related Multisystem Inflammatory Disease in Children (MIS-C) among younger children is less than that of yearly influenza. Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is minimal benefit relative to the difficulty of physically distancing young children. There is also evidence that physical distancing can negatively impact development of younger children. As a result, kindergarten and elementary schools have different guidelines than the secondary schools.

The risk of transmission is greatest between adults, therefore, the number of adults allowed to be in close proximity to each other and students will be limited.

Of course, there is much more in the plan than this space allows – parents and students are encouraged to sift through the details on their own. And keep in mind, everything is subject to change at a moment’s notice, as we’ve all become accustomed to by now.

“The planning landscape seems to shift daily. While this document presents our best thinking to date, we know that we will continue to learn and adapt as more is known,” Snowberger wrote. “We will all need to be flexible in order to pivot our approaches. We will continue to seek input and communicate as effectively and efficiently as possible.”


Superintendent Dan Snowberger can be reached at 970-375-3819 or by email at