Everything You Need to Know About Back to School

“Even though we can’t give you all the consistency you crave, we can continue to give you support. That will never change.” – Superintendent Sandra Smyser


Payton Perkins

Rocky Mountain High School (sign pictured) closed in March at the beginning of spring break, only for school to never reopen.

Payton Perkins, Editor

This story has been updated as of September 30 to reflect the developing situation.


As of September 15, Poudre School District has announced plans to transition to hybrid learning. This decision comes after almost a month of online schooling for grades K-12 in PSD. Several neighboring counties have also announced plans for transitions back to in person school.


PSD, along with hundreds of other school districts across America, closed all school buildings in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Students have since only been permitted inside buildings for essential supplies and teachers are teaching fully remotely. Uncertainty over the coming school year has been difficult for students, teachers, and parents alike to cope with. 


According to a PSD email sent out by Superintendent Dr. Sandra Smyser, the transition to in person learning for middle and high school is still targeted as October 19. The hybrid A and B system of school is still the expected model, meaning the entire student population would never be inside of school buildings at one time and students would meet with classes in person two days a week. The official announcement of the transition for middle and high school was made September 25.


This type of school will look very different. Cloth masks are required, as are mask breaks outside and safely distanced. Families are required to closely monitor their children’s health for COVID-19 symptoms, and PSD will be using an app to monitor any possible symptoms. All students or staff who feel ill or have a fever must remain at home. Enhanced cleaning of surfaces is in place. No visitors, volunteers, or field trips are allowed until January 2021.


“Secondary grades may offer some athletics, clubs and extracurricular activities that follow public health protocols,” PSD confirmed in the email. Clubs will not be permitted to meet at the elementary level, but club activity in the middle and high school level has not been addressed.


The reasoning for this new timetable is the improvement of contact tracing by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The LCDHE’s “lagging” turnaround times for COVID tests were cited in the PSD email as the main reason for the start of the school year being fully remote. The test result turnaround times have since improved, 27.1% of test results were coming back in two days or less as of August 4 and on September 5 that number had increased to 68.1%. This turnaround time is also increasingly going down – meaning that if an outbreak were to occur in a school, it would be detected quicker and traced faster.


“I think it’s too soon,” freshmen Sky Larson said when they were asked about the back to school announcement. “They closed at like 200 [cases] but want to reopen at like a thousand. Even with masks a lot of kids will likely break rules and not be masked all the time.”


If an outbreak does occur, PSD will revert back to fully remote learning. If an outbreak occurs LCDHE will be expected to communicate with PSD families about potential exposure. COVID cases are anticipated, as mentioned in the email. “We anticipate there will be cases and outbreaks in PSD that will lead to quarantines of classrooms, school closures and shifts back to Phase 1 – likely with little notice,” the email warned. This transition would be very similar to the abrupt school closure back in March.


“I’m personally torn between being really worried and glad because I learn better in person but I’m also really high risk and I don’t trust the student body,” Jo Hollingsworth said. “It’s my senior year and I feel like it’s not even happening because I’m stuck at home hardly seeing people.”


According to the PSD update, K-5 will be starting the transition to hybrid two weeks early, on October 5. This transition will be taken in stages to “monitor the impact of this transition on our students, families, staff and community.” This approach means that the response to any potential outbreak would be faster. Nationwide, parents and teachers of younger students are reporting students experiencing difficulty in adjusting to online school. This is cited in the PSD email as one reason the transition date for elementary and preschool was moved. 


“It’s been so long since we have been to school and it feels so foreign now,” junior Mason O’Brien said. “It’s gonna be hard to readjust to actually getting up and going to school all day everyday and being around people for so long.”


Thompson School District in Loveland has also recently announced their transition plans for hybrid learning. Similar to PSD, Thompson cited the increased turnaround time for COVID tests and improved case tracking as a result. TSD students will be starting a staggered return to school on September 28. K-1 will be fully in person, while remote learning will continue for grades 2-8. High school students will be meeting in small groups in addition to remote learning. 


“Like you, I want this to be over, but this pandemic is not over yet,” Dr. Smyser said in the PSD email. “More than anything you and your kids probably want consistency amid the chaos so that you can plan and make this situation work for your family. Even though we can’t give you all the consistency you crave, we can continue to give you support. That will never change.”