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COVID-19

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Trinidad School District waits approval on reopening plan

by Bill Knowles

 

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad School District has submitted plans for reopening to the Las Animas and Huerfano Counties District Public Health Department and is still waiting approval of the plan by public health officials.

During a special meeting last Thursday board members discussed the issue without taking any action following the infection of a 14-year old female with COVID-19.

“Determining how to open school in 2020-2021 is not an easy decision,” school superintendent Dr. Bonnie Aaron said in a press release. “In fact, it is one of the most complicated and difficult challenges any of us has ever faced.” The decision to reopen was made after collaboration among the COVID-19 Reopening Committee, which is made up of district staff, and consideration of the input from a parent survey.

The Board of Education passed a hybrid type of opening that would divide the students and teachers into two separate cohorts, “A” and “B”. Cohort “A” will physically attend school on Monday and Tuesday followed by in-home schooling. Cohort “B” will physically attend school on Wednesday and Thursday while schooling online Monday and Tuesday. This would allow for social distancing while students were at school.

Students who ride the bus to school would be temperature tested by parents in the morning before boarding the bus and all students will wear masks. When they arrive at school their temperatures will be taken by authorities. If the student has a temperature or shows other symptoms of coronavirus, they will be sent to an isolation room.

The other item for discussion was school sports.

Currently the school’s sports program is at the mercy of Colorado High School Activities Association or CHSAA (See related story, page 6.) CHSAA protocols for COVID-19 for some sports, such as football, are still being worked on and are awaiting approval by the state’s COVID-19 Action Team. Currently boy’s golf, boy’s tennis, and softball teams can start training. Word on the start of other sports is still pending.

As for what happened when students began volleyball practice late last month, it was found that CHSAA protocols weren’t followed and temperatures weren’t taken. Protocols indicate that a temperature under 100.3 is acceptable but at or above the student has to go into isolation. As student activity began the student who was later diagnosed with COVID-19 began to feel sick and went home.

And like regular school days, staff will have personal protective equipment when they are checking students for symptoms. And if a student is found to have symptoms and Public Health requires a test for COVID -19 there will be a 9 to 14 days lag time on receiving test results. According to Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Public Health Department, “We’re short of tools, the supply chain isn’t good supply. The supplies we’ve received for testing are broken or unusable. We initially asked for districts to push back start dates or start on line”.

As for the reopening plan the board of education didn’t vote on or approve any actions. Right now, the name of the game is “wait and see”.

Health officials experiencing burn-out as they struggle against COVID-19

by Bill Knowles

 

TRINIDAD — Public health departments across Colorado are experiencing burn-out as they continue to deal with the surge of coronavirus cases across the state, according to a report delivered by Las Animas County Commissioner Tony Hass during their regular Tuesday morning meeting.

The health department is now testing for COVID-19 at the health department building. It wasn’t made clear if local testing would speed up the release of results to health department officials. Currently it could take nine to 14 days for results to be made known. The time lag affects the ability for contact tracing teams to track down and begin testing those who might have been exposed to the virus.

In the Las Animas – Huerfano Counties District Health Department, Director Kim Gonzales voiced concern that some of her employees are beginning to experience burnout from the added stresses of dealing with the coronavirus as well as the normal day to day operations that have to be maintained by health department employees.

So far, according to Hass, nine health district directors across the state have quit following the onset of the pandemic. Some of the reasons stated have been because of death threats, others have had family pets poisoned, and others have had their property damaged.

In other reports, Commissioner Felix Lopez updated the commission on the opioid lawsuit saying that Colorado Counties Incorporated (CCI) met to have the counties go over the lawsuit and offer recommendations. He also noted that Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser attended the meeting. The focus, presented from the financial perspective, sought recommendations on the distribution of money won in the lawsuit would be distributed; who gets it and how the distribution will work. “The counties are in charge of these determinations, not the state,” Hass said.

Four new Bustang routes will be implemented by the state of Colorado. One of those routes will connect Alamosa to Pueblo via Salida. Part of the discussion involved the need for a route to be laid out between Trinidad and Pueblo.

It will have to be determined where the bus will stop when it reaches Trinidad. Some attending the meeting felt that it should stop at the Colorado Welcome Center, others indicated that the bus should stop where buses already stop. The funds for the establishment of the routes will come from a Federal Transit grant.

The 25-foot International Express bus can transport up to 14 passengers. More information can be found at www.gotoridebustang.com.

In actions taken, the county commission approved with a 3-0 vote the second quarter report from the Public Trustee Donna Leonetti. She reported that the number of foreclosures by the end of June in Las Animas County total 13. She also noted that she expects foreclosures to increase dramatically over the remainder of the year as home owners run out of funds to pay debts and loans with. The U.S. Congress has yet to take up a bill that would supplement lost income due to the pandemic and its impacts on the global economy.

The County Clerk and Recorder will use some CARES Act grant to fund the placement of a ballot drop box at the utility payment entrance at City Hall in an effort to improve the drop box program. Joseph Mestas, the Assistant Clerk and Recorder said the city and the clerk’s office reached an agreement to have the county install the drop box at city hall.

The grant will pay the $4,200 bill for the installation. The installation will be completed in mid to the end of September.

A larger drop box, capable of holding 500 ballots will be installed at the drive through outside of the courthouse.

The commission went into executive session at 10 am.

Gardner Valley School opens to in-person instruction on Sept. 3

by Jody Medina

 

GARDNER — Gardner Valley School is happy to announce that we have a start date for the 2020-2021 school year! The Gardner Valley School charter board voted to delay the start of school to September 3 and open with in-person instruction in accordance with the COVID-19 Safety Plan adopted by the charter board last Sunday. The later start date will give the charter school the time needed to ensure arrival of all of the PPE for COVID-19 safety protocols and will give the staff an adequate amount of time to prepare for opening with in-person instruction as well as having a plan in place for on-line learning needs that arise.

Registration will take place at Gardner Valley School on August 12 and 13 from 8:30 to 3:30. Part of the registration process will be to walk through the safety protocols to understand the expectations in the safety plan. For additional information, please contact Denise at 719-746-2446

School beautification

This Saturday, August 8, Gardner Valley School will have its first annual school beautification volunteer day. There are trees to prune, playgrounds to clear and paint, and windows to wash. Outside projects are available for volunteers that want to work in the great outdoors and inside projects for volunteers that desire to be out of the sun. We even have take-home projects for anyone who has skills that are better used at home, such as table saw work, refinishing and refurbishing. Please bring garden tools and other yard equipment for your use, if you can. We will provide sandwiches and beverages and lots of water. We will also have disposable masks, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer. We will begin our beautification projects at 8 a.m. If you are able to participate, we would love to see you!

Gardner Valley School is a tuition-free charter school in Huerfano School District Re-1. For additional information about the school, including enrollment, send an email request to: info@gardnervalleyschool.org

More than 30 quarantined after Fiesta Park softball games – Member of one women’s team tested positive for COVID-19

by Mark Craddock

 

WALSENBURG — The Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department has contacted and quarantined dozens of participants of two softball games last week at Walsenburg’s Fiesta Park, after one of the participants was found to have tested positive for COVID-19.

The person who tested positive has been put into isolation.

According to an August 1 press release, the local health department learned that the person played in softball games on Tuesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 30, during women’s league action at the park.

“All persons who have been exposed to the person who tested positive for COVID-19 during the two softball games have been notified and are on a 14-day quarantine,” the release says. “Individuals should monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If they do not develop symptoms within 14 days of these dates, there is nothing to be done. Those that develop symptoms within 14 days of these dates should contact their doctor and consider COVID-19 testing.”

The news prompted a quick closure of Walsenburg Wild Waters Park over the weekend, because one of the staff members had participated in the softball game. According to a July 31 post on the Wild Waters Park Facebook page:

“I was just informed late this evening that one of my employees was exposed to an individual who had recently tested positive for COVID-19. They have been ordered to quarantine for 14 days. As a precaution, we will not be open this Saturday, August 1st or Sunday, August 2nd, due to the fact we, as in myself and other staff, were then exposed to this employee today; Friday July 31st. We are taking this precaution because I would like to seek more guidance from the health department when they open on Monday regarding information about staying open moving forward. Please understand the serious nature of this matter.

Update: This employee expressed to me they were exposed at the most recent softball games in Huerfano county at Fiesta Park on July 30th. Please continue to take care of yourselves in these challenging times as we work towards getting back to normal.”

The following day, the park got the all-clear, but remained closed due to unrelated problems:

“Good news regarding last nights post: After hearing from the director of health, only the employee who was exposed is to be quarantined. I wanted to be extra cautious regarding this matter. With that being said, we got the ok to remain open. Now, unfortunately, we will not be able to open up until a later date due to a mechanical malfunction discovered today. I will inform you of a re-opening date when I have a better idea. Thank you.”

On Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council voted 4-2 to close the pool for the rest of the season.

According to Jerad Lessar, volunteer coordinator of Huerfano rec. sports, the woman who tested positive competes on a local team, but lives in Pueblo.

He said she believes she contracted the virus from a coworker.

In all, Lessar said, about 30-35 people were quarantined, with participants living “anywhere from from Trinidad to La Veta to Walsenburg to Pueblo.”

Lessar said he has put league play on hold for the next two weeks, at which time he will decide how to proceed.

“The health department put everybody on a 14-day quarantine, so I shut the league down for the next two weeks,” he said.

“I wanted to see if anything comes out of this before I decided to finish the league up or cancel the season altogether.”

He said the league has taken steps to keep things COVID-19 safe, and the participants have largely complied.

“For anybody in close quarters, such as dugouts, we ask them to wear masks and we provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray in each dugout,” Lessar said. “Actually, the players have responded well in terms of keeping their distance and not fighting.”

The same has largely been true with spectators, he said.

“Pretty much everybody has been pretty good at staying by their vehicles,” he said. “In the stands, they have stayed spread out. I think people are pretty self-conscious at this point.”

County Administrator John Galusha said Monday that Fiesta Park belongs to Huerfano County, but the activities there are led by volunteers.

“The county allows volunteers to run the adult softball program,” he wrote in an e-mail.”There is no paperwork, no contract, nor agreement for the activity. And the county doesn’t charge for the use of the field.”

Lessar said he suggested this week to county officials that they might consider suspending all activity at the softball fields for now.

“We ought to get this locked up and not even let people practice,” he said.

Huerfano County sees seventh confirmed COVID-19 case

Staff report

 

HUERFANO COUNTY — The Las Animas Huerfano Counties District Health Department announced Tuesday that a resident of Huerfano County has tested positive for COVID-19. Huerfano County now has seven cases within the county.

The positive COVID-19 case is a female in her 20’s who is recovering at home.

The local health department public health nurse has begun a contact investigation to determine if there were any additional exposures.

As a reminder, Public Health encourages all residents to take the following COVID-19 prevention steps:

• Wear a face covering when in public indoor spaces, as required per Executive Order D 2020-138

• Practice social distancing

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water

• Stay home when sick

Topsy turvey high school sports schedules in COVID era

Only CHSAA activities with no changes are student leadership and music activities

 

by Mark Craddock

COLORADO — High school football, volleyball and basketball in February? Softball, tennis and golf in the fall? Baseball extending into late June?

In a world turned topsy-turvy by the COVID-19 pandemic, when even the status of school openings is still up in the air in many districts, it is little wonder the upheaval would find its way to prep sports fields and bleachers across the state.

The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA)  released its calendar of activities for the coming year, rife with changes to conform with state restrictions and guidelines.

In broad strokes, the calendar is built around four seasons spread across the academic year, with many of the activities shuffled from their traditional seasons.

In “season A,” the traditional fall sports season, only cross country, boys’ golf, boys’ tennis and softball teams will see competition.

Football, in many areas the highlight of high school fall sports — and the anchor of most schools’ homecoming activities — will not see its first practices until Feb. 22, 2021, with games slated to begin March 4. Girls’ volleyball, another traditional fall sport, will be delayed until March 1.

Both sports are relegated to the late-winter “season C.”

The football season will be limited to seven games, with championships tentatively scheduled for May 8. For the volleyball teams, the season will see a maximum of 16 games, with a tentative state tourney date of May 1.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball, a “season B” sport in the CHSAA calendar, will get underway Jan. 1, closer to its normal timetable. Schools from 1A to 3A can play a 13-game schedule, while 4A and 5A schools get three additional games. Their championships will tentatively be held March 6.

Wrestling will also be a “season B” sport, with first competitions coming Jan. 7. Teams may participate in seven dual meets and a cumulative seven days worth of tournament action. The state championship is tentatively scheduled for March 6.

Baseball season will begin April 29. c1A teams will be limited to 13 games, while 2A-5A teams may schedule 16. The championship is tentatively set for June 26.

There will be no changes to the CHSAA sanctioned student leadership and music activities. Both will follow typical schedules for practices and competitions.

Raton prepares to go back to school remotely at first

by Marty Mayfield

KRTN Multi-Media

RATON — Raton Public Schools will begin preparations with teachers doing in-service training beginning August 11, but how much of that will be in person versus online training will be confirmed in the upcoming week.

Students will return to school in August in an online format, with in person classes beginning September 8th for K-2nd grade. The Raton Intermediate School will return later, on September 21, with the High School coming back October 5. Of course, as RPS Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bonn points out, all that could change between now and then.

Bonn has spent the last few weeks working out details for technology upgrades, noting that upgrades to the high school WIFI are forth coming. The WIFI and other technology in the school is older than 13 years and is in bad need of upgrading. The high school is fed with fiber optics, which Bonn noted were greatly underutilized. Students and faculty can expect to see new computers with Longfellow students seeing new iPads.

As for sports, its anyone’s guess since there will be no contact sports in the fall. Depending on numbers, they may not happen this year. He noted that coaches and high school admin will be working together to work out schedules for multi-sport students.

Bonn noted that transportation and meals are a big part of what he is working on as well. Students riding buses will be temperature checked and must wear a mask. He noted that families with students in multiple schools will have first priority on scheduling as will families with students in the same school. He says the district is working with parents to make things as easy as they can. It was also noted that while masks are required, the district has ordered several face shields which many teachers have requested rather than masks so speaking in class would be easier to do. Face Shields will also be offered at Longfellow for the younger students.

NMAA is meeting again on Wednesday and may make more changes to the upcoming sports season.

Primero school board tackles COVID questions

by Ruth Stodghill

 

PRIMERO — The Primero School Board held its regular monthly meeting at 5 pm on July 21, focusing on topics including plans for the upcoming school year, fiscal changes due to cuts to the state budget, and a staff resignation.

“The state department of education came out with further guidance regarding the start of the school year,” said Naccarato.

“We also sent out a survey to parents and staff about how they would like to approach the new school year.” “We are looking at starting grades 6-12 on a hybrid model until Labor Day,” said Naccarato. “The state is suggesting that teachers keep a six foot radius from students, so we are trying to develop two cohorts of students in order to limit exposure among students and staff.”

“Mr. Naccarato, what are you doing for your high risk employees, students, or age groups?” asked board member Laura Saint.

“All staff and students will be given options,” said Naccarato. “We are going to have a staff meeting tomorrow and we will ask staff if they need to be accommodated or what their thoughts are.”

“Are you going to be asking staff to sign a waiver in case they get COVID-19? I would be more comfortable if staff were asked to sign a waiver,” said Saint.

“We can look at that. But staff would have to prove that they didn’t get it somewhere else, like the grocery store or gas station,” said Naccarato. “This is what the school district lawyer told me.”

“Next, with our buses, we will sanitize them in the morning, in the evening. We will take temperatures as students get on the bus, and parents will not be allowed to leave until their child has passed temperature checks. Last period, teachers will take temperatures of students before they load on the bus or leave with their parents,” said Naccarato.

“We will be using an electrostatic machine to sanitize all the buses,” said facilities director Gerald Duran. “We will wipe down high-touch areas, plus use the machine.”

“With regard to the school calendar, we have eliminated three inservice days for the staff from throughout the school year. Instead, we have added five days of training for teachers on COVID-19 response, in person and online, at the beginning of the year, with classes pushed back to start on August 17,” said Naccarato.

“We are going to spend the year adapting to whatever happens to us,” said Naccarato.

Saint asked the school administration, “What have you been doing to prepare the school district for the financial crisis that we know will be coming after January?”

“We have worked quite hard on the budget,” said Naccarato. “Even without COVID-19 relief funds, we are $98,547.36 to the good. We have cut back on multiple budget line items. I assure you, we have been working on this quite hard.”

“How will the cafeteria work this year?” asked Saint.

“We are looking at grab and go breakfasts,” said Naccarato. “Lunches will be hot like usual. We are looking at two lunches for the secondary instead of one: grades 9-12 and grades 6-8. Elementary might be in their classrooms.”

“Sports are completely in limbo right now,” said Naccarato. “CHSAA has not come out with any information for us. So we are moving forward to start on time, until we find out differently.”

“On that subject – we can’t have volunteers in the school building next year,” said Byall. “Parents can’t come in, that’s why we aren’t having parent/teacher conferences this year. The only people that can come in are our regular staff and approved substitutes.”

Other business

Byall shared grant updates with the board. “For the first time, we have a reading and writing support program which has been made available through the MTSS grant for our grades K-5 kids,” said Byall.

“We are renewing our subscription to the Book Nook program for the elementary,” said Byall, “which will be a great resource for our parents if we end up having to have some extended at-home learning time again this year.”

“Enrollment-wise, we have about twelve new students enrolled so far for this upcoming school year,” said Byall. “We are actively advertising as a district, and we are hoping to get up to an enrollment of 215, 220 students, which would really benefit us in terms of the district budget.”

In action items, the board tabled first readings of resolutions to approve Board Policy IKF-2 and IKF-2-E – Graduation Requirements, beginning with the class of 2021. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the state has pushed back the new graduation requirements to begin with the class of 2022.

In financial decisions, the board passed resolutions to approve use of beginning cash balance for several accounts in fiscal year 2020-2021, and to increase operating expenditure over revenue for fiscal year 2020-2021 in accordance with Amendment I Article 10 section 20-E for the General, Town House, Hot Lunch, Activity, Bond Redemption, and Construction funds.

The board passed a resolution to approve a revised school calendar for the year of 2020-2021.

Finally, the board passed a resolution to accept the resignation of Jamie Odum, Third Grade Teacher. Odum has accepted a vice principal position at Peakview Elementary in Walsenburg, CO.

The next board meeting was set for August 18 at 5 pm.

Gov. Lujan Grisham orders delay in full school opening

by Sharon Niederman

 

NEW MEXICO/RATON — Owing to the increase in cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered some delays in the school calendar.

While Raton schools were expected to open on August 17, 2020 offering options of hybrid model that included both in-person and at home learning as well as a choice of completely remote learning, the governor has pushed all in-person public education at least to after Labor Day, starting Sept. 8.

At least 40 percent of districts have already paused the start of the school year, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Los Alamos. According to the governor’s plan, spelled out in her July 23, 2020 news conference streamed on Facebook, children aged kindergarten through fifth grade will be brought back first, because younger children are most challenged by remote learning and to prevent their falling irreparably behind, then middle school, then high school.

“The ultimate goal,” said Lujan Grisham, “is to have no hybrid models operating, rather, all students would attend full-time classes five days a week.”

Lujan Grisham also indicated that special needs students could begin instruction in small group or one-to-one settings and K-3 students could begin learning in person if no more than five students per teacher were available.

However, according to leadership at Longfellow Elementary School in Raton, staff is probably not going to be ready for that re-structuring by August 17, rather, they are looking to the post-Labor Day date to begin classes.

Trinidad High School sports teams quarantined following positive COVID-19 test

by Bill Knowles

 

TRINIDAD — A 14-year old student and athlete at Trinidad High School has tested positive for COVID-19 after the student went to Mount San Rafael Hospital on Saturday July 25, showing symptoms. The girl was one of four individuals living in Las Animas County who tested positive during the week.

At least 24 individuals and their parents were all contacted on July 26 and sent quarantine letters. Some faculty members were also contacted and sent quarantine letters as well. All were asked to quarantine at home and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

The event has caused the school to cancel the athletic camps that utilize the gym. The gym was already scheduled to undergo renovations.

So far, the school district has not issued a release with further details on the quarantines or precautions being taken at this time.

The World Journal contacted TSD#1 School Board President Dan Ruscitti who said that other teams impacted by the closure of the gymnasium are the basketball team, the football team, and a group of students trying to revitalize cheerleading at the high school. “The Colorado Department of Education is right now debating on how to handle sports this year.”

“This comes just four-weeks before school is scheduled to start,” said Ruscitti. “We have a COVID team made up of 25 people that have been working on a plan for re-opening. Now we might have to come up with another plan.”

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