The Buena Vista school district cancelled school for the week of March 16-20 out of precaution surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, effectively extending spring break by a week.
As of press time Wednesday, schools are planning to return after March 27. District superintendent Lisa Yates said that the district is monitoring the quickly-evolving situation closely.
“Should it be determined to extend this closure beyond March 27, educational services will be provided to our students at that time,” she said in an e-mail to district families Monday. “The school district will continue to plan for educational access after spring break; in the meantime, our children will enjoy (and learn!) with a little longer spring break!”
As in the rest of the state, country and world, response to the outbreak of a virus causing respiratory illness has been fluid and fast-moving. The outbreak was named a pandemic March 11 by the World Health Organization based on its global spread, touching every continent but Antarctica.
On Thursday last week, the district announced that it would be suspending all out-of-state travel sponsored by the district, including the high and middle school band’s much-awaited trip to perform at Disneyland. Later that day, Disneyland announced that it would be closing the park to the public.
Earlier last week, Colorado High School Sports Activities Association announced that it would be postponing the seasons of its spring sports. While speaking to The Times about the CHSSAA decision Friday morning, BVHS baseball coach Greg Perrin said, “It’s kind of like we’re waiting for the shoe to drop. Usually when an announcement comes on, you’ve gotta tell kids ‘Hey, let’s listen to the announcement,’ but here today when the chimes ring for an announcement, it’s dead silent.”
A matter of hours after that call, the district announced its closure.
Darren Patterson Christian Academy also announced Friday that it would be closing school for the week.
“We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis in our community. In our response to COVID-19, we must depend on the wisdom of our health experts and elected officials and make decisions that protect the health of students, staff and families in our community,” Yates said in the email announcing the closure. “In light of Governor (Jared) Polis’ declaration of a state of emergency in Colorado and the rapidly growing number of confirmed cases in Colorado, we must take swift action to protect public health.
“During the closure, all schools, district facilities, buses will undergo additional deep cleanings with hospital-grade disinfectants. We encourage the community to continue hand washing and follow other recommendations from the CDC about how to avoid the spread of illness,” she said.
Yates told The Times Monday that district staff are being paid throughout the closure and are considered “available for duty” as long as the employee is not quarantined or in isolation.
“The district will work with employees regarding leave time for medical needs related to this outbreak,” she said.
The district is the largest employer in Buena Vista.
Throughout the closure week, the district provided bagged lunches to be picked up at Avery-Parsons Elementary School. School staff stood outside the building and delivered lunches to cars.
Families/students may pick up a meal by driving or walking to the Avery-Parsons drop off loop on East Main Street between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., each day.
The district will make its best estimate regarding the number of bags to prepare enough for all who need, Yates said. As the week moves along, we will have a better idea of quantity needed.
Yates noted this service is available to all families; there are no qualifiers. The school district will determine later in the week if meals will continue through spring break.
The meals will continue through spring break, she said.
Delivery is available by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-395-7099 and leave a message.
On Tuesday, CHSSAA announced that it would extend its postponement of spring sports until April 18. Perrin said that the CHSSAA rule forbids teams to gather in practice, but that his players have a regimen of drills to practice on their own.
The school announcements came amid a deluge of announcements from local businesses and government entities announcing they were closing or curtailing their business to observe the Center for Disease Control’s advice of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
Yates said Wednesday morning the district would be awaiting further announcements on school closures from Gov. Polis before making a determination on additional closures of BV schools.
“There are many details to provide access to all and guidance from the state will be used. We ask families to be patient as we finalize plans. The state of Colorado will be providing waivers for mandatory instructional time. Again, details to come,” Yates said.