Letter from Principal McWright 9/22/2020

Dear Denver School of the Arts Community –

I do hope you all are doing well and keeping safe. As of 5pm today we still do not have an approved plan to send out to you. For transparency, the plan I have requested for approval involves the school to remain in remote instruction with the possibility to provide in-person arts instruction on Friday’s where available. This plan is still under consideration.

If we are not approved to continue remotely, and because you have a deadline to make your decision regarding in-person instruction or continue remote instruction by Wednesday, September 23, 2020, I would like to share specific details of what a Denver School of the Arts detailed in-person plan will entail. Please know the specifics of this plan must follow the guidelines and parameters set forth by Denver Health and expectations set forth by Denver Public Schools and are subject to change at any time.

Based upon the guidelines set by Denver Public Schools in consultation with Denver Health, students must follow the following expectations:

  • All individuals entering the building must receive a health screen prior to entering the school building
  • All persons (staff and students) must wear a mask at all times, and adhere to social distancing of at least 3 feet
  • Teachers may only interact with up to two cohorts of students.
  • Each of these cohorts can only house up to 35 students.
  • Students are not allowed to cross over cohorts
  • Student cohorts must be maintained for at least the duration of Quarter 2
  • Every individual must wear a mask at all times, and adhere to social distancing of at least 3 feet

In addition to the parameters set forth by Denver Health, schools must follow the requirements set forth by Denver Public Schools:

  • Teachers will be required to provide in-person and online instruction to students. However, at this time we are not sure how this will take place.
  • Virtual learners will still be expected to receive a minimum of 3.5 hours of instruction daily.
  • For students who choose the in-person learning options, a minimum of 10 hours of in-person interaction must occur each week
  • Students must receive daily Social Emotional Learning

Based upon the guidelines set forth by Denver Health in conjunction with Denver Public Schools these are some of the following challenges:

  • Meaningful Interaction: There is an expectation associated with in-person instruction that I am not sure will take place. Based on the guidelines and in conjunction with staffing challenges, even if students are in the building, they may still be accessing the majority of their instruction virtually.
  • Computer Access: Whereas the school has a number of Chromebooks for students to use, there may be a shortage due to our lending of devices to other schools at the beginning of the year. Students who are able may be asked to bring their individual devices to school to access the learning platform.
  • Student Schedules: Due the structure of our schedule, we plan to keep student schedules as they are, however, because of the dueling efforts associated with in-person and remote learning, some changes may have to occur.
  • Transportation: Currently our district is able to transport students at approximately 33% capacity with limited support from RTD. Furthermore, Denver School of the Arts is not currently one of the schools listed to have a daily transportation route. The challenge comes in which students who may want to attend in person, but my not have a means for transportation each day.
  • Classroom Environment: Because students will not be allowed to cross cohorts or assemble with more than 35 students at a time, students will be asked to remain in their cohorts all day. This will yield classroom environments where a teacher may be delivering a lesson virtually to a different set of students, while students will be asked to simultaneously participate virtually in another class.
  • Planning For Teacher Absences: It is not a matter of if it will happen but when it will happen. As with the normal order of activities, teachers will be absent from time to time. We have been assigned one dedicated guest teacher for high school, and one dedicated teacher for middle school. Like teachers, these individuals cannot serve more than 2 cohorts in a row without a 72 hour break from student interaction. So, these teachers may be limited to seeing only one cohort per week. As a result, students may be asked to work asynchronous in a teacher’s absence. In addition, because of staffing concerns, this may happen with limited student support, since we will not have licensed adults available to monitor and support each classroom. Some of the reasons entail contractual obligations. Contractually, teachers are not to exceed a 40-hour work week without overtime pay, and within that time we must provide 5.75 hours of planning and daily duty-free 45-minute lunch period.
  • Virtual Only Teachers: Another challenge is associated with limited staff working in person. Staff members have been granted the option of requesting to work remotely through the first semester. As of now we are approaching 18% our licensed faculty that have received approval to work remotely if we return to in-person learning. That percentage is still growing. This means that no matter what format we return to in-person, classes taught by these instructors will be virtual. Please note, these requests include front office staff, counselors, academic teachers, and arts instructors. This means even if students wish to take advantage of our in-person learning there will be limited access to some classes and not all Arts instruction may be available in-person.

I do know this is a lot to take in and complicated. Please note the plan devised is based on parameters set forth by Denver Public Schools in conjunction with guidance from Denver Health. The information provided to you is based on those guidelines. We do hope this information gives you some idea of what in-person instruction may look like upon our return. If you are satisfied with your current selection, no action is required on your part, but if you would like to change your learning option for Quarter 2, please complete the Learning Option Change Form in Parent Portal.

Please understand that we are collaborating daily with district leadership and principals across the district to address how to navigate the significant challenges these guidelines bring forth. Also, we have been informed by district leadership that principals will be provided additional in-person scheduling guidance for secondary schools by end of day tomorrow (9/23/2020). Hopefully this session will grant more answers to the questions being raised.

I do understand and appreciate that you may have additional questions, but it is my hope that this information provides some guidance and clarification on what to possibly expect for in-person learning.  We know that the conditions outlined above are less than perfect and exhausting to navigate, but we do appreciate your understanding and flexibility. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any member of our administrative team.

Anthony McWright, EdD
Denver School of the Arts