Statement to the Board of Education on the COVID-19 Response

I delivered these remarks to the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education at the 4.02.2020 regular meeting.

Thank you, Madam President.

Exactly 3 weeks ago, school districts in much of Colorado (including Jeffco Public Schools) made the difficult decision to close our schools to in-person learning.

Since that time, I am pleased to report that your school district has responded proactively and positively to this public health crisis in an effort to be a stabilizing force in a dynamic and chaotic time, to support the health and welfare of all in our community, and most importantly – to ensure learning continues for the 85,000 students in Jeffco’s charge.

In watching the pandemic unfold across the globe earlier this spring, the leadership of Jeffco Public Schools saw extended school closures occurring in other countries and the impact that was having on students and families.

We expected that this same experience could be coming to schools in the United States and to us here in Jefferson County, and thus we began preparing and making plans for a large-scale transition to remote learning several weeks ago.

On March 12th, when the announcement was made for an extended school closure, the teachers and staff in your schools and district knew what to do, had a plan, and executed it.

By that next week, devices and access information to key systems were sent home with students, remote professional learning and support was set up for staff, and communications systems were retooled and transformed to allow us to continue delivering on our core purpose of educating Jeffco’s students.

The calm, methodical, and professional response of your staff has been nothing short of remarkable and I want to publicly commend all the employees of Jeffco Public Schools for the way that you prepared and the work you are doing.

Also, as Jeffco’s largest employer, we have taken steps to keep our employees paid and to provide them and our community some degree of economic stability in this difficult time.

This is not to say this effort is without its challenges. We continue to respond to and solve device and connectivity issues and are actively taking steps to ensure that we reach all students in Jeffco, including those with disabilities and who are learning English.

We also continue to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic with our community, increasing and shifting our food service systems and keeping our buildings open and safe as work-spaces for staff.

Looking ahead, our organization and our community continue to learn and grow from this experience. I would say our implementation of remote learning has gone well, but there have been and will continue to be challenges.

There are well-intended mistakes being made and there are new and unexpected challenges every day. We take these as opportunities to learn, grow, and better serve our community and we ask for grace and patience in this process.

We have also created an evaluation process for this period of remote learning. While we are proud of our efforts to date, we want quality information that we can use to continue to learn and improve and ultimately gauge our success.

We do not yet know how long this pandemic and the restrictions impacting our movement and connections will last. We also do not yet know what the long-term economic impact that this event may bring and we must take prudent steps to prepare Jeffco Public Schools to weather the coming financial storm.

In any case, I pledge to you, Madam President, and to the other board members as the elected representatives of our community, that our district will not fail and will continue to deliver on the promise of public education regardless of the circumstances we face now, or in the uncertain future.

Thank you, Madam President.

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