As we prepare our district’s Return-to-Learn plan for the next school year, we continue to do so with student and staff safety at the forefront of our decision-making. We are thankful for the patience and understanding of our school community during this unprecedented time. We hope this update provides helpful information as we work together to support our students to return to learn for the 2020-2021 school year.
We have learned over the past few months that information regarding COVID-19 continues to evolve, as does the best-practice guidance issued by local, state, and federal agencies and officials. Be assured that we are in contact regularly with local and state public health officials as we conduct our planning.
Because this situation is fluid, we are preparing for a variety of scenarios as to what the beginning of next year will look like, ranging from welcoming all students back in person to some form of online education. Regardless of what it looks like, we are committed to doing what we do best – educating our students and being there to support students and families each step of the way. We will do this in a way that seeks to ensure the same opportunities for each and every one of our students, regardless of the challenges or barriers they may be facing.
There are seven essential areas that the district is focusing on for as we prepare our Return-to-Learn plan:
- Leadership – The district leadership team has the responsibility to implement and support educational plans and allocate resources across buildings in order to improve student learning. In the current circumstances, this team focuses on developing, implementing, monitoring, and supporting the Return-to-Learn Plan as it directly impacts all learning across the district.
- Infrastructure – This area includes organizational structures critical in day-to-day operations. This includes ensuring everyone has access to the technology needed to support student learning, establishing district/school calendars to maximize student learning opportunities, understanding how to approach attendance and grading/promotion across delivery models, supporting needed professional development opportunities for teachers and staff, and adhering to privacy/FERPA concerns.
- Health and Safety – There are specific several health and safety considerations due to the current COVID-19 crisis that will be addressed in any Return-to-Learn Plan.
- Iowa Academic Standards – Academic learning will continue to be a priority, regardless of the methods by which students return to learning for the 2020-2021 school year. While some planning considerations will be similar across different return to learning delivery models, there are also unique factors that need to be considered, such as grading, credits, attendance, and learning requirements defined in federal law and state code.
- Social-Emotional-Behavioral Health (SEBH) – The social-emotional-behavior health (SEBH) of Iowa’s teachers, staff, students, and families is one of the highest priorities in planning for the 2020-2021 school year. The critical focus is securing and enhancing supportive relationships with staff, students, and their families during this crisis.
- Equity – Creating equitable learning opportunities is of the utmost importance to our teachers and families. The district recognizes families are at different places in their capacity to provide distance learning. Equity in this context is focused on ensuring all students have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), are able to access the Iowa Content Standards, and have the supports needed to progress in their learning.
- Data Considerations – The monitoring of data will enable districts to make informed decisions throughout the development and implementation of the Return-to-Learn Plan (e.g. What are the technology and basic needs of the teachers, staff, students, and families within our district? Which delivery model are we best able to support based on the Resources and Needs survey? What are the professional development needs of our teachers/staff? Do we have the PPE and cleaning supplies needed to keep our teachers, staff, students, and families safe/healthy?).
Throughout the summer, we will be communicating as our Return-to-Learn plan progresses. Please check our website regularly for updates. As always, we invite you to reach out at any time if we can be of assistance or if you have ideas/suggestions that may support our preparations for next year.
We are excited to continue our work on the Return-to-Learn plan and, like you, are adjusting the best we can with the ever-changing times. We have missed the energy that our students bring to our schools and look forward to getting them back to learning as soon as possible.