CASB Letter to Governor Polis: Working Together

The following letter was sent to Governor Polis on Thursday, November 19 in response to the press conference held this week. 

November 19, 2020

Dear Governor Polis,

Thank you for your leadership in these difficult times. The safety and protection of students across Colorado is our number one priority. We take our in loco parentis responsibilities very seriously when caring for children in our charge. We love and care for Colorado’s students as if they were our own and we know you feel the same.

That is why we are reaching out to you today. We genuinely want to continue working in-person with students in our schools. However, safety concerns due to rising COVID cases and hospitalization rates, the regulatory environment, and a lack of resources we currently face may ultimately make this impossible.

Recently, you said, “Whatever schools and districts need to be able to get back safely, we want to support that.” You added, “...for many families and for many kids, that is the safest place they can be with the safety parameters that we have at school.” (see Polis Announces New Restrictions But Urges Colorado Schools To Stay Open, Chalkbeat, by Jason Gonzales, November 17, 2020.)

On behalf of our membership, we agree and would like to suggest measures that you can take to help schools stay open.

First, work with school boards in order to understand the constraints that influence their decisions regarding the learning environments for their students. You will learn that they are making decisions that prioritize health, safety, and learning during this global pandemic. You will learn that the number one reason schools cannot manage quarantines is rampant spread of the virus in our communities. You will learn that high levels of the virus in the community lead to more exposures in school and multiple quarantines, which have ripple effects on staffing. School districts, teachers, students, and parents are all heartbroken not to have students learning in-person. Work with us to problem solve what it will take to make that happen.

Second, as you are aware, quarantine guidelines change from allowing “Targeted Contact Identification” to “Standard Contact Identification” when a county moves into the orange or red level. The net-result of this stronger standard is that entire classes of students, and many teachers and bus drivers, are being quarantined at the same time, making it virtually impossible to keep our schools open. We do not want to compromise the safety of our schools, but recommend that quarantine requirements and algorithms for returning to school be reviewed by health experts to see what changes, if any, could be made that would both keep our students and staff safe and be less burdensome to implement.

Third, schools and districts have reached the limits of their resources to address the additional requirements of operating in the current environment. There are three specific areas where concentrated resources could make a significant difference. Chief among our schools’ needs are nurses who can help identify cases, make quarantine decisions, and work with public health agencies to track cases. However, in many cases, the problem is that districts cannot afford to bring on additional personnel, even though qualified people may be available to fill open positions. To support nurses in our districts, we also need to expand COVID rapid-test sites and provide additional contact tracers. Again, the issue here is not the unavailability of people to serve in these capacities, but, rather, the lack of resources to actually hire applicants for these positions. Finally, there is a dramatic shortage of substitute teachers to cover classes left vacant by teachers under quarantine. In some circumstances, schools can find people to cover the classes but don’t have the additional resources to actually pay the substitute teachers. While in some areas of the state, substitute teachers are simply not available due to the teacher shortage that has plagued our state for years.

Finally, clear goals and expectations, decisive decision-making, transparency, and frequent communication will help to mitigate the stress and anxiety that our citizens are experiencing. This requires local and state policymakers to work together to serve the best interests of Colordans.    

The spirit of this letter is one of shared responsibility and mutual cooperation. We know that school districts are on the front lines of not just providing services to students and families, but also in keeping Colorado’s economy open. We stand ready, willing, and able to play our part in supporting our state. In order to do so, we need to work collaboratively to address the long-standing challenges our school boards have grappled with for years and the current realities of what it takes to operate safely during a global pandemic.  

Thank you in advance for your consideration. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in this letter further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Very sincerely,


Cheri Wrench                            Monica Furey Peloso
Executive Director                     President

Rep. KC Becker
Rep. Alec Garnett
Rep. Daneya Esgar
Rep. Patrick Neville
Rep. Hugh McKean
Sen. Leroy Garcia
Sen. Steve Fenberg
Sen. Chris Holbert

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