Denver Public Schools plans return to in-person learning in the fall, no COVID vaccine requirement — yet

Denver Public Schools leaders expect students will return to full-time, in-person learning this fall, and at this point, the district is not planning to require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

During a news conference Thursday, Tamara Acevedo, deputy superintendent of academics, said she anticipates the class schedule will “look much more like it has in the past” for all grades come this August.

Dr. Steven Federico, pediatric specialist with Denver Health, added that the ability to achieve that “is completely predicated on how quickly our community gets adolescents vaccinated and the families of our adolescent population vaccinated.”

Colorado students are currently required to be vaccinated for hepatitis B, measles and chickenpox, among other diseases. COVID-19 is not currently on that list, though that could change, said Deputy Superintendent of Schools Michael Ramirez.

“At this point, that has not been determined,” he said.

Young adults ages 16 and up are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. About 40% of 16- and 17-year-olds in Denver have already received at least one dose, Federico said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to green-light the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 by next week, and DPS is planning to host vaccination clinics at 10 school-based sites in June.

“If we’re around 50% of our adolescent population being vaccinated as we get close to the school year, that’s dramatically going to decrease the risk of COVID in our schools,” Federico said.

Many colleges, including the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, will require students to be vaccinated before attending in the fall, which could lead to broader mandates.

“Given the massive public health impact of this virus, I think you will see, increasingly, different governing bodies begin to explore this question of a vaccine mandate and I think COVID will be a part of that discussion moving forward,” Federico said. “That will be a big topic of conversation over the next three to six months.”

It’s unclear how safety measures, such as social distancing and symptom screenings, may change come next school year, but Federico said “masking will be the last thing to go.”

DPS will continue to offer a remote schooling option for families. The timeframe to register runs May 10 through June 4.

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