D11 Insights

Special Back to School Edition

Superintendent's Welcome Message

It has definitely been a very different start to the school year than anyone could have imagined! Despite the challenges we faced this week, we also experienced engaged students, staff, and families as we started the 2020-2021 school year. Throughout this week, I was able to join some virtual classrooms and I saw firsthand how educators are building relationships with students, how students are excited to begin the new school year, and how the launch of a new way of learning is taking shape and will likely be with us in some capacity for the long run. I am thankful for the collaboration between our families, teachers, and other staff as we all work to do what is best for students.

I wanted to provide you with an update regarding our future plans for in-person learning.We continue to monitor the health data from the State and El Paso County. Thankfully, we are starting to see some favorable data that may help us as we continue to plan for students returning to the classroom. At this week's Board of Education meeting, I mentioned a possible staggered in-person start as early as September.

Tentatively starting in mid-September, and dependent on the health data holding positive trends, we would begin to bring back elementary students to schools in-person, five days per week. Middle school students would be brought back in-person also five days per week on the planned block schedule as stated in the Return to Learn plan, and high school students on the hybrid model (also stated in the Return to Learn plan). D11 would continue to offer an online, remote learning environment for the families who choose this option.

We will continue to monitor the circumstances and environmental safety levels for our students and staff. As we receive more information, we will be sure to inform you in a timely manner, including the plans for in-person learning schedules. It has always been the desire of the Board and the District to bring students back to in-person learning. Thank you for your continued dedication to your child’s wellbeing and your patience as we work to inspire every mind.

Yours in Partnership,

Dr. Michael J. Thomas, Superintendent

First Day Pictures

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Technology Adjustments

Starting the year remotely means relying heavily on technology. When technology fails us, like it did earlier this week, it can be extremely frustrating. Over the summer, our technology team did lots of testing and preparation. Given the preparation, we expanded from deploying 5,000 student computers to 20,000 over the summer. In the process, we had to upgrade our Internet content filter on all D11 devices, helping to keep students safe online by blocking access to inappropriate sites.

The Internet content filter is at the root of almost all the issues we have been experiencing on D11 devices since the start of school. Every website a student, teacher, or staff member accesses through a D11 device has to go through the content filter and be approved before loading the webpage. As students logged in on Monday morning on their school-issued devices, it quickly became apparent the new content filter could not handle the load. The content filter was so backlogged with requests, it caused sites like Schoology, WebEx, and d11.org to load very slowly or not at all, causing error messages to be displayed.

This week, we have been working non-stop with our content filter vendor to determine how best to resolve these issues. Each day, new fixes have been applied and have provided improvement. We will continue to performance tune and tweak our environment until we get it right for every student.

With every new learning environment comes changes, challenges, and opportunities to learn together. We greatly appreciate the patience and understanding from our families as we navigate these hurdles. Moving forward, we know our students will be successful this year, learning that even the best technology isn’t without flaws, and teamwork helps provide resolutions to issues they will also encounter in the world that awaits them after high school. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open between our families and schools so we can assist you with any questions regarding remote learning. Please be sure your contact information is up-to-date in the Q Parent Portal so our communications reach you via our Loop notification system.

First Week Highlights

It was absolutely inspiring to see our education teams and plans in action across the District this week! Despite the bumps in the road, there were so many students, teachers, and staff engaged and excited for the new school year. Here are some of the highlights!

  • The technology distribution at all schools went well and we overheard so many positive parent responses about receiving the devices and the ability to connect with teachers.
  • Remote attendance is going strong and most teachers have reported having most students attend the virtual classroom meetings.
  • There was a learning curve for both students and staff regarding the learning platforms, specifically getting into the right virtual room at the right time.
  • Teachers and classroom aides have been trailblazers, preparing virtual lessons, producing instructional videos, and meeting the needs of their students remotely.
  • If you didn't see from the pictures above, there were lots of smiling students who were so happy to virtually "see" their teachers and peers!
  • Reminder: Masks and social distancing are a must when on D11 property. Large group gatherings, despite safe distancing, jeopardize the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. We thank you for helping keep our schools safe!

D11 PPE and Safety Supplies Update

Our custodial teams continue to use a variety of techniques and supplies to ensure our schools are as clean and sanitized as possible. Building managers and other school staff, to include teachers, clean heavily trafficked areas using a Stabilized Aqueous Ozone (SAO), when available, or simple soap and water. SAO is non-toxic to humans and its byproduct is water. Chemical disinfectants are not used when students are present.

We are also working to increase the ventilation level in our schools by 150%. This work includes evaluating and repairing every Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system within the District. We are reprogramming our building automation systems to allow extended system operation before and after the school day to ensure that “fresh” air is in the buildings at the start of the school day. Additionally, the following PPE is being delivered to schools:

Disposable Masks – 13,950 (for staff, or students who need one because theirs was forgotten, lost or damaged)

Face Shields – 4,059 (one for every staff member)

Hand Sanitizer – 2,090 bottles (enough for every classroom)

Non-contact Thermometers – 230

Portable Sneeze Guards – 2,000 pre-manufactured and 144+ D11 Facilities crews made.

Meal Service in D11

The D11 Food and Nutrition Services Department has served over 500,000 grab & go meals since March 16 through August 16! A huge thank you goes out to the entire FNS team, each of whom put in a lot of hard work to ensure children were fed during the past few difficult months.

We continue to serve meals, both breakfast and lunch, in our schools even though many students are learning remotely. Sadly though, we’ve had some schools that have had no students participate. Please know students can still receive meals, whether they are on regular, free, or reduced lunch status at their schools. Check your school's website for lunch times and more details.

Athletics Update

Currently, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) in partnership with state officials have released a new sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year. Boys golf, boys tennis, softball and boys and girls cross country have all been approved and presently competing. D11 student-athletes are extremely happy to be able to compete and we have a couple of teams, as well as individual athletes, that are really making the most out of these opportunities. Starting September 8, for student-athletes not in a current sport, they will have the opportunity to start off-season conditioning. With input from CHSAA and the El Paso County Health Department, D11 continues to lead the way for a safe return to athletics. Our mitigation steps far exceed what is required it is our belief we can offer athletics in a safe environment.

D11 middle school athletics is currently working on an alternative plan for a safe return to sports once in-person learning returns. While our interscholastic sports calendar might not look the same as it has in the past, we are working extremely hard to figure out a calendar where we will still offer boys' and girls' track, boys' and girls' basketball, girls' volleyball, and wrestling during the 2020-21 school year. Our middle school programming will follow the same safety mitigation steps as our high schools. We are excited to get our middle school students back out on the fields and courts!