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Back To School: State Health Department Issues Guidance

DENVER (CBS4) -- On Monday, officials with Colorado's health department and the department of education released new guidance for the fall opening of schools.

Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) said the guidance is based on "what we know now, scientific evidence, and expert consultations."

School districts and local public health agencies are the final decision makers on school guidance.

The guidance covered recommendations about wearing face coverings, maintaining healthy environments, physical distancing and transportation.

Face Coverings

Face coverings are required for all staff while on site, except where medically contraindicated.

All students aged 11 and older are required to wear masks on side, except where medically contraindicated. Students 10 and under are encouraged to wear masks, when they can be supervised. Students should be able to remove their own masks and should not wear them during nap time.

Healthy Environments

The CDPHE and CDE recommend schools take steps to decrease congestion in entrances, hallways and other common spaces. Separate entrances should be used when available.

State officials also said screening measures should be used upon entry of a school, including temperature checks and asking about symptoms of the virus.

Officials also recommended staggering arrival, departure, meal and recess times.

Schools should have a plan for the frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces.

Health officials say schools should also service and maintain HVAC systems, as poor ventilation can lead to further spread of the virus.

Physical Distancing

Because younger children are not as affected by the coronavirus, the greatest emphasis on spacing is for adult staff and older children

For students in middle school and high school, and adult staff, six feet of spacing is preferred, but 3 feet of spacing is acceptable in some cases.

Schools should reduce class sizes and keep students in cohorts to reduce exposure. Class and cohort size guidance varies by age. In case of an outbreak, schools can decide whether to send certain cohorts or classes home, or close the school.

State officials did not release specific guidance on a strict number of people who can be in a cohort.


Officials again recommended staggered drop-off and pick-up times.

Capacity on school buses should be reduced to allow for physical distancing, and drivers should make shorter, more frequent trips. Members of a household and cohorts can sit together. Masks should be worn when safe.

Can School Districts Pull This Off Safely?

Some teachers tell CBS4 they're worried about schools going back to in-person learning, because districts may not be ready for some of these measures to be implemented.

"We have some concerns," said art teacher and Jeffco Education Association President Brooke Williams. "Access to testing is a big one, our HVAC systems are a real concerns, we'd like to see those at OSHA standards."

Williams also worries about personal protective equipment.

"We have rotating cleaning schedules, so even our classes don't get cleaned frequently. We have concerns around PPE, having full access to PPE, and providing that equitably between staff and students," Williams said.

Williams says her organization has been in discussions with the school district, and she hopes positive changes will be made in time for the start of the school year.

"None of us want to lose any of our students," Williams said. "We love our students, we love our families, we love our communities, and we love our schools, no one wants to be in school, in person more than us, we became educators because we love children, we love working with kids, but it's also a responsibility for us to ensure that we are doing this in a safe, thoughtful, and responsible way."

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