July 13th, 2020 UPDATE
Please view this video published by Superintendent Art Sathoff for an update on our Return-to-Learn plan:
If you have yet to take our parent survey on face coverings & preferred learning model, please visit one of these URLs prior to 4:30 PM on Wednesday, July 15th:
Transcript of the video:
Hello, this is Indianola Community School District Superintendent Art Sathoff, and I would like to take this opportunity to give you an update on Return to Learn planning. A District Leadership Team has been planning and having discussions about the best way to safely get our students and staff back to school and plans to have final recommendations for the school board to consider July 20. This planning has included multiple surveys of stakeholders and six planning teams with involvement of various staff members. I think everybody understands that this is an evolving situation and that plans can change.
Guidance from the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Department of Public Health, Warren County Public Health, and other sources is being considered, and staff members have been involved with planning. We know that people’s family situations and opinions vary greatly with regard to COVID-19. Our priorities are to get students and staff back on site safely and to do the best job we can of meeting individual student and family needs. There are many moving parts in Return to Learn, and today I want to share the Leadership Team’s current thinking on a few of the leading concerns we have heard. I want to note again that the plan is not complete and has not yet been approved, and it is extremely important to be flexible as situations can evolve. With that said, I want to touch on instructional models, face coverings, health screenings, and transportation specifically today.
The instructional model that the leadership team will be recommending to the board is a hybrid model that accommodates both a desire to get students and staff in the building five days a week and a need to provide quality online instruction for students who are unable to return to school currently because of health risks or families who just are not ready to send students back.
In this plan students will attend school daily, but the school day will conclude 90 minutes earlier than usual. This addresses planning time and time for remote instruction.
We believe there are several key benefits to this plan:
- A consistent daily schedule
- Meals served each week day
- A smoother transition to either totally on site or totally remote instruction since teachers and students will be doing both each day.
- Adequate time for teachers to provide a quality online program.
There will be challenges with this plan as well, such as scheduling logistics, reduced face-to-face time at first, and work required to focus on essential standards with reduced class time.
Parents will be required to notify principals about the delivery model their students will be using: on site or remote. They will need to stick with the model for a given period of time. At some point, assuming there are not developments that prevent it, the school will move to a full-day on site model (at the end of the first quarter, for example). Students who could not return due to documented health reasons at that point would still have some sort of online option.
This is a much discussed topic that is still an open issue. In my June 29 video update I shared that we were planning on recommending face coverings allowed but not required. As the summer has progressed, there have been widespread spikes in virus activity, and there have been positive tests in the community and in local and area sports teams as activities resumed. The CDC recommends face coverings for people over age two when physical distancing can’t be achieved and when masks can be worn properly. The Iowa Department of Education, in consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health does not recommend requiring face coverings. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that younger children are less likely to contract and spread COVID-19 and that the benefit of wearing face coverings for younger students must be weighed against the harm of increased touching of nose and mouth through wearing masks. Cloth masks need to be washed after use and should only be handled by the strings or loops. In a school setting they would need to be safely stored when not worn, such as at lunch or recess. Older students and, especially, staff are at greater risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus.
With these things and more in mind, at this point the Leadership Team plans to recommend to the board that face coverings be required for all staff and students grades 6-12, to be worn whenever physical distancing can’t be achieved. If someone has a documented medical reason for not wearing a face covering, that should be discussed with the building principal and will be accommodated. The district would provide two cloth masks to each staff member and student in grades 6-12. Students and staff could also elect to wear their own school-appropriate face covering, such as mask or gaiter.
PK-5 students would be allowed to wear face coverings under this recommendation but not required to. PK-5 staff would be required to wear face coverings, and there could be instances when a face shield would be worn instead of or in addition to a mask.
All bus riders may be required to wear face coverings since physical distancing is very difficult on a bus, and students riding the bus are confined in one limited space for an extended period of time.
Face coverings will allow the district to have normal ridership numbers. If the number of riders per bus is limited, then a number of students currently being transported to school would have to walk. By Iowa Code, school districts must provide transportation to students in kindergarten through fifth grade who live two miles or more from school and to students in grades six through twelve who live three miles or more from school.
The district is requesting that parents screen students’ health prior to their coming to school or getting on the bus. If students have a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or are exhibiting other symptoms of COVID-19 they should not come to school. If symptoms persist, parents may consider having the student tested for COVID-19.
The schools will not do temperature checks at the door upon arrival because we do not want to create a bottle neck where students and staff are congregating. However, the district will have the capacity to temperature check all students in the classroom early in the school day and will recommend that.
There are many more considerations within the planning being done, including hygiene and sanitation, physical distancing, addressing social and emotional needs of students and staff, and much more. Please feel free to reach out to other administrators or me with questions. Our goal is to provide the best education possible in the safest manner possible for all of our students, beginning August 4 for Irving Elementary and August 25 for our traditional calendar school buildings. Thank you and parents, please reply to the very brief follow up survey being sent with this message, too.