The Colorado Department of Education announced a $15 million grant program Thursday for school districts and boards of cooperative educational services to return to in-person learning.
The one-time funding from the Safe Schools Reopening Grant is meant to fund resources for these educational institutions to safely reopen when pandemic conditions allow reopening to be possible.
“We know that most students, especially young children, learn best when they can be in the classroom with their teachers and classmates,” Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said.
In Colorado, only 44% of elementary students and 22% of middle and high school students are currently learning in-person five full days a week, according to CDE’s Nov. 13 estimates.
Just this week, Denver Public Schools announced it will move all of its students to online-only learning beginning Nov. 30 because of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our educators have worked incredibly hard to support their students both in classrooms and remotely during this pandemic, but they need help from each member of our community in order to keep students in the classroom,” Anthes said.
In addition to funding, education officials have said they need community support in the form of adhering to public health orders for schools to return to in-person learning.
Currently, 1 in 49 people in Colorado are infected with COVID-19, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Local school districts are working with their local public health agencies to open schools whenever the data shows that it is safe to do so,” State Board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder said.
“If we all do our part, our case numbers will decline and we can get our students back into the classroom.”
The CDE urges Coloradans to continue to avoid gatherings, wear masks, social distance and follow all county-by-county COVID-19 restrictions.
Funding for the grant comes from federal Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated to the CDPHE.
Grant applications can be submitted by districts and BOCES that operate public schools on behalf of any school, including charter schools. Applications are due by Nov. 30. Funds must be spent by Dec. 30.