Huerfano RE-1 votes to start school online — Physical attendance may, possibly, start after Labor Day

by Jaye Sudar

WALSENBURG — The Board of Education’s hot topic at the Monday board meeting was whether to fully open school as decided at the July 13 board meeting, or to change the plan. Superintendent Mike Moore began by informing the board that due to more information on COVID-19, as well as letters from the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and the Huerfano Education Association (HEA) requesting a delay in opening schools, he was now asking the BOE to reconsider their decision. The new option would be to start school online on August 17, and then, after Labor Day, reconvene to discuss whether the district will move to in person instruction, or stay online. This is a plan that many districts in the state have chosen.

Ross Hallihan, president of the HEA, spoke of the “Extenuating circumstances that put the health and safety of many of our staff, their loved ones, our students and their family members, in jeopardy.” He continued with more information about the HEA survey taken, including that most of the HEA members were not comfortable with the BOE’s previous decision. These sentiments were echoed by some of the board members. President Gretchen Sporleder-Orr expressed concerns over the lack of testing and the risks of exposure due to the number of people traveling through the community at this time of year. Directors Ruth Orr and Edie Flanagin agreed that the lack of testing has left the community uninformed on the possible number of cases in the community. In contrast, Director Kayla Andreatta expressed concerns over possible abuse and neglect of students left at home, and Director Joel Shults mentioned his concerns that COVID-19 was not as virulent for students, and his opinion that more teachers were ready to go back full time. Director Sherry Gomez mentioned that the hospital and nursing home has been conducting weekly tests, and so far that it was fortunate that there had been no cases of COVID-19 at the hospital.

In a 4-3 vote, the board voted to change their stance and opt for online education starting on August 1. Shults, Gomez, and Andreatta voted against the motion. The BOE will reevaluate this decision prior to the Labor Day holiday, taking into consideration the status of COVID-19 in the community, as well as any new medical information available.