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Schools gearing up for 'normal' year


Last updated 8/4/2021 at 2:54pm

Area students will be returning to classrooms beginning next week, and district leaders have announced what the return-to-learn will look like – as close to normal as possible

“We anticipate a much more normal school year,” FFC8 Superintendent Dr. Keith Owen said in a letter to families.

Foremost in many parents’ minds is the question of whether masks will be required. The short answer is no, not at this time, although there are exceptions.

Both Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 and Widefield School District 3 have said they will not require staff or students of any age to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. In a letter to families, WSD3 Superintendent Kevin Duren said masks “will be encouraged for those who have not been vaccinated,” and that “any individual (staff or student) may continue to wear a mask if they choose.”

Due to federal regulations, everyone on a bus must wear a mask at all times, regardless of vaccination status.

Officials caution that the protocols are subject to change at any time depending on circumstances and updated guidance from El Paso County Public Health. Officials emphasized there would be a need for flexibility as things progress, but they maintain that in-person learning is their top priority.

“We will continue to take preventative measures to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for staff and students, and make adjustments as necessary,” Duren said.

Schools will continue to maintain frequent cleaning schedules and host vaccination clinics for those interested. Vaccinations will preclude an individual from having to quarantine if COVID-19 cases are identified in their proximity.

“The district will be required to quarantine unvaccinated individuals if they are considered ‘close contacts’ to a positive COVID case; however, the district will work to limit quarantines as much as is allowed,” Owen said.

Both districts are emphasizing in-person learning this year. WSD3 has expanded its online D3 My Way program for students who wish to stay at home, but all others will attend in person full time. Last year, secondary students spent a large portion of the year in hybrid format – some in person, some virtual – but that is not on the agenda for this year.

FFC8 offers an online option for students in grades 6-12. If students are interested, they first need to enroll in FFC8 through their home school and then speak to their home school administrator about applying for the online academy.

Both districts will continue to provide school lunches at no cost to all students, regardless of income. This practice began last year under guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a way to assist families during the pandemic. However, families still are requested to complete the applications for free and reduced meals to help the districts determine other needs among students.

FFC8 begins school Aug. 9, with different grades starting throughout the week. WSD3 classes begin Aug. 16, also on a staggered schedule. For more information on the districts, visit or

—Karin Hill


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