July 26, 2021
Dear D11 Students, Families and Staff:
As the summer starts to conclude, and we gear up for the 2021-22 school year, we in D11 are doing so with great excitement. Given the challenges we experienced as a result of COVID-19 last school year, I remain very optimistic we will be able to have a much more normal school year without the same levels of restrictions in our schools. It was great to see many of our students during our Summer Bridge program safely come together and, for the first time in months, actually see the smiling faces of students and staff.
The pandemic is not over. However, we know from our experience over the past 17 months that by taking the right combination of health precautions, we can keep our students, staff and community safe. I am mindful that variants of COVID-19 are still prevalent, and we will work collaboratively with local and State health officials to ensure our schools are clean, safe and welcoming. We know so much more about COVID-19 than we initially did, and this knowledge will guide us as professionals to make decisions that will support the learning of our students, while also keeping everyone as safe as possible. Please keep in mind guidance continually changes, and we are currently awaiting more updates from our county and state health departments. As we learn more about updates to public health protocols, we will make any changes deemed necessary and communicate with our community as soon as possible.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
While our students and families are and will continue to be resilient, we also recognize the pandemic has created environments inside and outside our schools that can cause stress, anxiety, depression, or a sense of uncertainty. As we transition back to more normal classroom environments, D11 focuses on delivering SEL curriculum, adding additional counseling services, monitoring student well-being, and building back school communities. Through partnerships with Children’s Hospital, Diversus Health, Peak Vista, and ThriveWorks, D11 has added supplemental mental health services for those families that wish to access support during and after the school day. Now more than ever, we are committed to developing students' social emotional learning competencies in order for all to thrive in our schools.
COVID Protocols for 2021-2022
Recently published guidance from both The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages students over the age of two to wear face coverings at school. As a leadership team, we thoroughly reviewed orders and guidance from local, state and federal health officials to determine how to safely return to our schools. Given our successful preventative measures last school year, coupled with our population vaccination rates (55.4% in El Paso County), we remain confident in our ability to open our schools safely and facilitate the highest quality instruction each day with the following D11 safety protocols:
- Federal law mandates anyone riding public transportation, including school buses, be required to wear a mask. For students of any age, and staff riding D11 buses for any purpose (e.g., to and from school, activities, field trips, etc.), in alignment with the Federal mandate, face coverings on all D11 buses are required.
- For students ages 11 and under, in alignment with local and state guidance, face coverings are strongly encouraged while learning indoors, but are not required.
- For students/staff ages 12 and over, in alignment with local and state guidance, face coverings are strongly encouraged for anyone who is 12+ years and not fully vaccinated but are not required.
- We honor and respect the decisions of parents and staff when it comes to facial coverings, whether wearing one or not. As a district, our schools and central administration offices are expected to be welcoming and supportive of everyone and we will uphold a positive culture throughout the District. Should mask mandates be put back in place by state or local public health agencies, we will communicate that information. Please be informed about vaccinations and safety protocols so we can keep students in class as much as possible this year.
We will continue to follow the quarantine protocols set forth by the Colorado Public Health and Environment and El Paso County Public Health. Should these protocols change, we will update you as soon as we are made aware. Students or staff members who test positive for COVID will be required to isolate accordingly. We will strive to minimize disruption, especially in our classroom settings, to maintain high quality, in-person learning environments, while maintaining the safety of all.
Our Facilities, Operations and Transportation staffs will continue to ensure that our schools and buses provide the safest possible environments.
- School ventilation systems have been reprogrammed to the maximum extent possible to increase the fresh air by over 150 percent.
- Custodial staffs will continue to use a variety of proven techniques and supplies to ensure our schools are as clean and sanitized as possible. District 11 custodial cleaning procedures mandate extra cleaning on heavily trafficked areas while students are present. Chemical disinfectants will only be used when students are not present.
- School bus ventilation will also be increased by opening windows.
- School bus drivers will continue to clean buses between each run. Additionally, school buses will also be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at the end of each shift.
District 11 is not requiring students or staff to be vaccinated, but we are seeing medical research demonstrating those communities with higher COVID vaccination rates have lower infection rates and are not as impacted by emerging variants. As a district, we will help those throughout our community who are interested in getting a COVID vaccination by providing informational resources to them. This may come as partnerships with local public health to host vaccination clinics at school sites. Please understand that anyone under the age of 18 (whether you are a D11 student or not), must have adult permission to receive a COVID vaccination. District 11 has no authority to authorize any vaccinations. Again, please be informed on vaccines and safety protocols so we may all do our part to keep students in class as much as possible this school year.
Like any illness, we encourage families and staff to make the best health decisions for themselves and please refrain from sending your student or reporting to work if you are showing any symptoms of illness.
For additional resources and information from the State and local health agencies, please visit the following links:
- Updated Return to Learn
- Who Needs to Quarantine
- At Home Symptom Screening Tool
- Addressing Symptoms as School
In closing, I am also excited for the academic changes you may experience this year as well. We are opening a new K-8 online school called Spark Online Academy. Many families who are still seeking full remote instruction will enjoy this traditional, comprehensive approach to education taught by our own D11 staff using our own district curriculum. We are also opening our first dual language immersion program at Rogers Elementary School for students in kindergarten and first grade, with an emphasis on Spanish language and culture. Students will also have greater access to our gifted magnet programs (GMP) and Montessori school through free, expanded transportation. These are just some of the exciting new learning opportunities your children will have in D11 with many more to come.
As the City of Colorado Springs celebrates its 150th birthday, we too in D11 are proud to be the namesake district and celebrate being the oldest district in the city. Much has changed since the opening of our first schools, and we invite our community to join us in Rebuilding, Reimagining and Rediscovering the wonderful opportunities throughout our district as we prepare our students for college, career and life readiness. We are developing new academic and facility plans in partnership with our community to ensure we remain rigorous and relevant, along with beautifying many of our school campuses. Information about these efforts may be found at www.d11.org/rebuilding. Much of this work depends on our community supporting a tax-neutral bond for our district this November, and I am proud to share our early polling found 73 percent of our community in favor of the bond. The support for the bond will allow us to conduct deep improvements in our schools to be here for another 150 years. Whether or not you have students in D11, strong school systems ensure strong, thriving communities.
As the Superintendent of one of the most diverse school systems in the region, I am proud of our amazing staff and our unwavering commitment to this beautiful community. No matter who you are or what composes your background, all are welcome in our schools, and I thank you in advance for choosing D11. Join me, as we welcome one another to an exciting year together!
Yours In Partnership,
Dr. Michael J. Thomas