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Buena Vista school district officials continued to expand upon the plan to reopen school for in-person learning when the school year resumes in August in remarks to the district’s board of directors Monday.

District finance director Janice Martin said the district had received COVID-19 relief fund dollars from the state in the amount of $541,547, and that the district is applying for an additional funding of $130,000 from another source.

“It’s not really a replacement for the (budget) cut the state has made, it’s for additional costs the district will incur, basically for experiencing COVID,” Martin said.

District superintendent Lisa Yates described some of the thought going into how the district will use these relief funds, saying that the primary lens through which the administration is looking at budget decisions is “What will it take for us to get back to school?”

“Our intent is to have every student, every day, in-person as we move into fall. That’s where we’re putting our investments,” Yates said.

Things like plexiglass dividers, personal protective gear for school nurses, and a hefty substitute teacher fund in the event that teachers get sick are some such budget considerations, she said.

“Those kinds of things can be real dollars. We’re spending a lot of time looking at that in our reopening plan. It would be great if we could have some medical support,” Yates said. “We’re talking, as you know, with our medical community, asking ‘Is there any kind of work that we could do together?’”

Yates said the district is evaluating scenarios across three tiers of severity of virus spread.

“Right now we’re in no spread, so that’s why we’re moving toward ‘people could come back to school.’ With teaching, we hope, when you’re in-person, that’s more familiar. But when you move into some of these other levels, where maybe there is a little bit of a spread, mild to moderate, then teaching might have to look a little different,” she said.

“We know we’re going to have a lot of kids absent, because we’re not going to let them come to school sick. So what kind of learning will be happening at home, and how can we amp that up with staff, so that could be taking some planning in the summer.”

Yates said that during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, Colorado responded as a state, with precautions being made in consideration of areas with much higher populations and population densities than Chaffee County. If a second wave hits in the fall, the response in Chaffee County may be different.

“The number of cases that we had in Chaffee County, likely if we had that number of cases again, we wouldn’t respond in the same way, and Public Health is saying that,” Yates said. “It wouldn’t have constituted mild-moderate spread necessarily, especially for us, because it was an isolated, primarily, outbreak in assisted living. So, our responses will look very different in the fall.”

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