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Sheridan's plan to open schools includes a classroom cap of 12 students

KUSA-TV Denver logo KUSA-TV Denver 7/16/2020 Janet Oravetz, Nelson Garcia

When the Sheridan School District reopens in about a month, class size will be limited to an average maximum of 12 students in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a draft proposal presented to the school board by Superintendent Pat Sandos.

"If we can keep the number of kids limited, we're hoping that that will keep our kids and our staff safer and less chance for cross-contamination," Sandos said.

School is set to resume in the district on Monday, Aug. 17.

Sandos emphasized that student and staff safety is the primary concern—and said any student or teacher has the option to remain at home.

The district plans to offer in-person instruction in school classrooms to half of the students in grades six through 12 at one time. When at school, they will receive instruction in core classes such as English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

“We have to keep it safe,” Sandos said. “Even though some of the directives are that you can have 20 to 25 students, we’re not doing that.”

At the high school level, students in ninth and 10th grades would attend school in the morning and students in 11th and 12th grades would attend in the afternoon. All electives and non-core classes would be taken at home via online learning, resulting in a full academic day.

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Once in school, no more than an average of 12 students will be allowed in each classroom based on how many desks can fit and still be six feet apart, Sandos said.

For example, a class of 24 students would be split into two groups—one in the same room as the teacher, the second group in an adjacent classroom with a paraprofessional, and will participate in class through Zoom.

"Then, we flip the kids every other day so that they get, they all get access to the teacher," Sandos said. 

Students would rotate each day so direct teacher interaction is distributed evenly.

"Now, the kids that are out in the hall, they're taking a lesson live, it's actually happening at the same time," Sandos said. "They can ask questions right through their computer and the teacher has got a speaker in the room and can hear them." 

Students who opt to stay at home would access the same instruction being delivered—synchronously—from inside the school classroom.

RELATED: Parents weighing tough decisions about returning students to school

A detailed plan for all grade levels which will include expectations for entering and exiting schools, staggered hallway passing between periods, desk and classroom cleaning, and transportation will be issued soon, according to the district.

"We have a lot of multi-generational families," Sandos said. "If we do this, if we open up and if we're successful with this model, we're not putting the entire family at risk by doing that."

Sandos said Sheridan's plan was inspired by what a charter school in Aurora is currently doing with summer school students.

"This is all new thinking to us," Sandos said. "33 years of education, I've never seen anything like this."

Schools will be marked with cones and caution tape to manage student flow, the district said.

Recesses will be staggered—and only permitted for small groups of students at a time. 

Face masks will be required for everyone inside the school, and the district said it plans to provide three masks for every student and for each staff member. The small metro-area school district only has 1,400 students total and about 120 teachers.

"We're small enough and nimble enough that we think we can do that," Sandos said. "So, just by sheer size, we have an advantage."

All students will have their temperature checked upon arrival in school, according to the plan. Details about what would happen if a student has a fever are still being worked out.

"We're an at-risk community, so we want our kids in school," Sandos said. "Our teachers want to be in front of their kids. We want to do it in a safe way, though, and this seems to make sense for us."

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