Denver, Colorado . . . Guidelines for safe reopening of schools for 2020–2021 school year were released June 17 by a special ad hoc committee established by the Rocky Mountain Conference.

Working closely with the CDC, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico health departments, and Centura Health, these guidelines were designed to keep every student, teacher, and parent safe as in-person instruction resumes.

The guidelines that are in place as of June 18 at all RMC schools are:

  1. Promote healthy hygiene practices. – All RMC teachers will need to teach, reinforce, and model proper hand-washing, know how to cover coughs and sneezes, and reinforce avoiding contact with one’s eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. All staff will be required to use masks. – This is the recommendation of the CDC and CDE. It is highly recommended that students use masks.  Masks may be removed when in the classroom.
  3. Social distancing in the classroom and throughout the day. – Students should remain in the same space in groups as small as possible (For the multi-teacher schools, consider ways to keep teachers with one group of students as much as possible).
  4. Maximize space between seating and desks. – There should be six feet between desks and markings on the floor, so students recognize the assigned space.
  5. Classes should be held outside as much as possible.
  6. Lunch breaks in classroom. – Meals should be served in the classroom or outdoors. Cafeterias should be avoided whenever possible.
  7. Recesses should be staggered to limit large groups or if a staggered recess is not possible, designate areas of the gym or field for each class.
  8. Health checks and temperatures required. All students and staff will be required to have their temperature checked prior to being allowed to enter the building in the morning. All students and staff will be asked several COVID-19 health questions prior to the school day.
  9. Extracurricular activities and after-school sports. – These programs are currently suspended. This may change as the school year starts. Colorado High School Activities Association is currently looking at all options.
  10. Sanitization of the school. – The school must be deep cleaned and sanitized every day after school. The conference is in the process of acquiring certain products to sanitize our schools each day.

“I can see where some parents, students, as well as faculty are concerned about the restrictions, but the alternative is not good,” Don Reeder, Campion Academy principal stated.  “We want to have in-person education happening here so we can build community, family, and spiritual life that we treasure at Campion Academy. Having a few restrictions is necessary, but still allows us to meet together which is precious to us.”

“I think they (the guidelines) will change before school starts,” Traci Pike, Mountain Road Christian Academy head teacher stated. “What I am hoping is that we will be able to have school as normal.  I think a small one room-school is probably going to be to our benefit. I think that is something that was always looked as a negative, but has suddenly turned positive.”

“I think it will be impossible to social distance with elementary students,” Pike added.

Depending on the location, your school may have additional guidelines. Please contact your local health authorities and the RMC education department with any questions you might have.

Any confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the schools, or community outbreaks, may require the schools to implement additional requirements, even including switching to remote learning applications without any advance notice.

Many RMC schools are considering operating on modified schedules.  RMC schools will be starting on different dates. The first schools will be opening on August 9. Some RMC schools are currently exploring a 4-day school week.

Schools wishing to receive any modifications from the RMC guidelines must submit a variance request to the local county health department. The RMC education staff are available to assist in that process.

The guidelines will continue to be adjusted as we move closer to the actual opening date and as more guidance becomes available from the authorities.

Concerning the guidelines affecting enrollment, Reeder added “We are budgeting, and planning for lower enrollment, but we are not conceding the point that we might have more students as our constituency evaluates the importance of Christian education in [light of] the events of these last days. I can see a scenario where our enrollment increases because parents and students want the Christian environment and the spiritual programming.”

“Last year, we ended the school with 14 students. Right now, it is looking like I will have 18  to 20 students. Parents want their children in school,” Pike concluded.

“Our very clear and deep desire and our intention is for every school to be prepared and ready to accept students on the first day of this next school year. That is our hope and our prayer. As much as I wish it were the case; however, that is not a promise. There are just too many variables to try to see with any certainty what our world will look like in the next two months,” said Lonnie Hetterle, RMC education superintendent.  “The only thing I can promise you is that there will be school in the Rocky Mountain Conference beginning in August.”

“Rest assured, however, that every possible avenue is being thoroughly explored and we are carefully investigating all possible scenarios to provide the best and safest education for the wonderful children and young people God has given to us. If there ever was a time for deep prayer and strengthening our personal walk with Jesus, I do believe this is that time and that place,” Hetterle concluded.

It is vital that the schools work closely with their county health departments as they plan to resume their program in August, RMC educators advised.