Jeffco Schools Restart, budget update:  What we know so far

With the Jeffco Schools Aug. 24 start date now confirmed, you may be wondering what the 2020-21 school year will look like.

Here’s a summary of the Restart Jeffco plan and the newly approved Jeffco Schools budget. 

Jeffco’s Restart Plan

Jeffco Schools released its Restart Jeffco plan on July 8th. Here are the highlights:

  • Students in Pre-K through grades 12 will have the option to return to school in-person, five days a week, Monday through Friday.
  • Students in Pre-K through grades 12 will also have the option to choose 100 percent remote learning. 
  • Students will eat in classrooms or other designated areas to support social distancing.
    • Meal service programs will be available, and may be a combination of in-school serving and a “grab-and-go” program.
  • Bus transportation will be available, but buses will be limited to 22-24 passengers or less depending on the school bus size, and will require all students and staff to wear a face covering. 
  • No visitors or volunteers will be allowed inside school buildings.

What rules will be in place to keep students and staff safe?

Jeffco’s Restart Plan calls for the following: 

  • Increasing building ventilation and fresh air mixture to the fullest extent possible.
  • Using 6 feet of social-distancing to the greatest extent possible.
  • Cohort groupings of students will be consistent and limited to the same classmates to the greatest extent possible.
  • The amount and size of gatherings will be limited to the extent possible.
  • The duration of interaction between individuals outside of cohort groupings will be limited.
  • Symptom screening for staff and students once a day upon entry to school buildings to include temperature checks and answering a health screening question. Students with a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will be sent home.
  • A face covering will be required when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • For students who ride the bus, parents will be expected to take their child’s temperature before leaving the house and keep their child home if they have a fever or are ill. 
  • Regular hand washing/sanitizing and hygiene protocols will be implemented.
  • Shared items and school materials will be reduced.
  • Enhanced cleaning and decontamination of buildings and buses.
  • The use of common spaces like gymnasiums, auditoriums and cafeterias for large or mixed groups will be prohibited.

The plan also notes that “by attending in-person learning, students, families, and staff agree to follow all school safety, health, and hygiene practices,” which includes wearing a face covering when 6 feet of social-distancing is not possible.

What happened to the hybrid options?

A June 29 Colorado Public Radio story reported that Jeffco had planned a hybrid mixture of remote and in-person learning for middle and high schools, and the details of the hybrid plan were provided in the May 22 draft Restart Model plan; however, on June 19, Jeffco Schools announced that elementary schools would only offer in-person or fully remote options.

According to the Restart Plan released on July 8th (page 36), the hybrid plan was removed based on survey results from the community for this reason:

“The overwhelming majority of respondents expressed concerns about hybrid learning and the need for students to return to school at 100% capacity in August. After extensive conversation and consulting with public health partners, principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, community partners, and others, we were able to develop onsite procedures with revised school structures to create an in-person environment so that all PK-12 students may return to school 5 days a week.”

Jeffco Schools Restart Q&A

Safety

Q:  Will masks or face coverings be required?

A:  Yes, face coverings will be required when entering and exiting buildings; while in common spaces such as break rooms, hallways, and restrooms; and when 6 feet of social-distancing is not possible — but  exceptions will be made due to documented health concerns. 

Q:  Will Jeffco Schools be supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff, teachers, and students? 

A:  Yes. The district budgeted $5.5 million for the purchase of PPE, cleaning supplies and other COVID-related costs. 

Q:  What happens if there is a positive COVID case at a school? 

A:  According to the Restart Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), “if a confirmed case occurs at school, JCPH [Jefferson County Public Health] will assist the Jeffco Public Schools leadership team to determine a course of action for individual schools on a case-by-case basis.” According to the plan, if an outbreak requires a school or the entire district to close, Jeffco Schools will be prepared, if necessary, to return to a remote/online environment or hybrid model depending on public health conditions.

Restart options

Q:  If a family chooses remote learning, can they change to in-person learning later (or vice versa)?

A:  Yes, according to the Restart FAQs, families can switch at the end of a semester.

Q:  If a student is choice-enrolled into a school and chooses remote/online learning, does it hold their space to come back to school in person?

A:  Yes. Families who choose the remote option remain enrolled at their school of choice.

Q:  How do families select their choice for in-person or remote learning?

A:  After reviewing the plan, every Jeffco parent is being asked to complete an online form, Jeffco In-Person or Remote/Online Learning Preference, for each of their student(s) attending a Jeffco Schools neighborhood school to communicate learning preference. This data will help schools develop their building-level plans for the start of school.

Q:  How can students provide their feedback on the Restart Plan?

A:  After reviewing the plan, students in grades 5-12 can complete the Student Input Survey to provide their feedback.

Electives: Art, music, theater, physical education, sports and Outdoor Lab

Q: Will my child be able to take elective classes, including art, music and physical education (PE)?

A:  Yes. Middle and high school students will be offered elective programming to include art, music, PE, and theater; and in elementary schools, specials teachers (i.e., music, art, and PE teachers) will visit classrooms as opposed to students traveling to those classrooms, according to the Restart FAQs. Best management practices and resources will be provided to support elective offerings.

In a response to a question about music offerings on a July 8th Jeffco Schools Restart Plan Facebook post, Jeffco Schools superintendent Dr. Jason Glass stated, “We have not been informed by any public health agency including JCPH that choir or band activities could not take place. We will need to spread students out, use outside space, create barriers between musicians, or have smaller ensembles. All these are options.”

Q:  Will my child be able to participate in athletics and activity programs in the fall?

A: Jeffco Schools adheres to the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) parameters for sports and activity programs. CHSAA has not yet provided guidance for Fall 2020.

Q:  What about Outdoor Lab and field trips?

A: According to Dr. Glass on the Jeffco Schools Restart Plan Facebook post, “OELS will be operating under much the same constraints as schools, but we do hope to provide this experience for students. That team is still working on protocols, so we aren’t ready to publish those as yet. And we are looking at 7th grade options as well for those students who missed out on last year. It is complex.”

However, field trips and activities away from school are cancelled until further notice, according to the Restart FAQs.

School specifics

Q: My child attends a charter school. How do I communicate with our school our preference for learning?

A: Do not complete the Jeffco In-Person or Remote/Online Learning Preference Survey. Charter parents will receive a separate form from your charter school.

Q:  How will this work in my school?

A:  Details regarding schedules, plans for pick up and drop off, symptom screening, building entry, transitions, lunch and recess in specific schools will be developed by principals and staff and communicated before school starts. 

Q:  What are the impacts to the high school schedule?

A: Students will attend a maximum of four classes a day, and limited schedules and online courses may be implemented as necessary. Campuses will be closed for lunch and off-block periods, meaning students will not be able to leave campus to limit multiple entry and exits. Outside delivery from restaurants will not be permitted.

Resources

Q: What mental health resources are available for my child and family to help us manage stress and anxiety?

A: The Student Services Department designed a COVID-19 Mental Health Supports website with information and resources to assist families with supporting mental wellness and physical health.

Q:  What if we do not have a device or access to home internet for remote learning?

A: Every student will have access to a device for remote learning. In collaboration with community partners, businesses, and others, Jeffco Schools IT staff will ensure students have access to home internet for remote learning. Low-cost home internet options can be found on the Jeffco Schools website.

All information is subject to change and JeffcoPEN will provide updates as more information becomes available. Visit RestartJeffco.com for the most up-to-date information direct from Jeffco Schools.

Budget Update and Summary

In case you missed it, the Jeffco Schools 2020-21 budget was approved on June 17th. Here are the highlights:

  • Between a 5 percent state funding cut of $34 million dollars, and other revenue sources down $3.7 million, the total funding cuts were $37.7 million from what Jeffco Schools received in 2019-2020.
  • Jeffco will receive about $42 million in one-time funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. that will help offset funding cuts for 2020-21.
    • $5.5 is budgeted for PPE and related costs
  • The district also identified $9 million in ongoing savings to help fill the funding gap.
    • Those numbers include $5 million in retirement and staff turnover savings, $1 million in utility costs savings, and $3 million in other ongoing savings identified by the district in 2019/20.
  • Jeffco will use $21.3 million from reserves to cover the remaining 2020-21 budget gap. 
  • Mid-year cuts in funding from the state are possible later this year. 
  • Additional cuts for the 2021-22 year and years after that are expected.

Budget Q&A

Q:  What was the Citizen Budget Advisory Committee? What did it do? 

A:  The committee was convened to identify and prioritize possible cuts while Jeffco Schools waited to see how state funding would change when the legislature reconvened. The Citizen Budget Advisory Committee report identified a number of cuts that did not need to be made for the 2020-21 year (thanks to the one-time CARES Act funding), but which may serve as a starting point for cuts in future years.

Q:  What does the 5 percent cut in state funding and loss of revenue mean for schools?

A:  Currently, schools will remain largely unaffected. The one-time funding and ongoing savings will fill the gap. Schools may see cuts in 2021-22, or even more cuts later this year if a mid-year cut, called a mid-year rescission, is issued by the state. 

Q:  What does it mean for Student Based Budgeting (SBB)?

A:  SBB for the 2020-21 year will not change from 2019-20 levels unless there are significant mid-year cuts from the state. SBB may be cut in 2021-22 and beyond, depending on state funding cuts and the overall economy. 

Q:  What does it mean to JCEA and JESPA collective bargaining?

A:  The Jeffco school board had intended to set aside funding for a compensation increase. However, that was in early March when Jeffco Schools still expected to see a small increase in state funding. By mid-March,  COVID-19 impacted school budget projections considerably.

Collective bargaining conversations are ongoing and pay discussions are just starting. As of June 16th, the district proposal included:

  • No ongoing salary increases
  • No cost of living (COLA) increase
  • No steps/levels/quartiles increase
  • The district will pay for the district’s 0.5 percent PERA increase
  • Benefit allocations will be maintained
  • No pay reductions, no furlough days and no district-wide staff reductions

Compensation increases typically require ongoing additional funding. Here’s what those numbers look like in Jeffco:

  • Cost of living increase = $6.3 million per 1 percent increase
  • Steps/levels/quartiles increase = $17 million

One-time funding can be used for one-time compensation increases, but without additional funding in future years, compensation will fall to the level it was previously. Without a funding increase, the district would have to cut staff or programs to free up additional dollars for compensation.

Q:  What should we expect for the 2021-22 budget?

A:  First, Jeffco Schools was able to bridge the $37.7 million funding cut by using one-time funds. No one-time funds are expected that could bridge the gap in 2021-22, so Jeffco Schools may need to make nearly $40 million in cuts.

In addition, if the state cuts funding more, Jeffco Schools will need to make deeper cuts. Current economic forecasts suggests that the school district may face cuts not only in 2020-21 and 2021-22, but for multiple years into the future.

Katie Winner

Katie Winner

Katie Winner has been a productive nuisance in public education and community advocacy ever since arriving in Jeffco from New York in 2014. With a Masters degree in higher education, an MBA, and a professional certificate in college counseling from UCLA, Katie began her service for Jeffco schools by volunteering with her local school accountability committee. Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and kids, playing or watching hockey, exploring the open spaces of Colorado, and getting back to the East Coast as often as she can. Please visit our "About Us" page to learn more about Katie and our other writers.

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