Two very important updates to our continued plans for our return to school August 13th:
(1) Face coverings (see full explanation below)
(2) In-person school Monday-Thursday only (see full explanation below)
(1) Face coverings:
Although our guidance through the Iowa Department of Education as of July 1st quotes “Requiring face coverings for all staff and students is not recommended,” we have reconsidered given CDC guidance to update our face coverings recommendations at this time. Until further notice, all staff will be required to wear a face covering of either a mask or a shield unless social distancing can be practiced. The district will provide face shields for all staff if requested/needed. Face coverings will continue to be encouraged for students in grades PK-1, however, they will be required for students in grades 2-12 unless social distancing can be practiced (pending documented medical reasons). Students will be asked to provide their own face covering but one will be provided if necessary.
(2): In-person school Monday-Thursday:
We have determined that it is in the best interest of the students and our district to begin the school year in an educational hybrid model on August 13th to accommodate both in-person learning and virtual learning. With the level of community spread in our area on the rise, we also foresee a need to accommodate the ongoing number of students/families who will need to access virtual learning during 14-day quarantine mitigation efforts. (Note: School will be held on Friday, August 14th)
You may recall that in the Return to Learn Plan, we had proposed a hybrid plan that would have students attending school from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Due to the potential childcare concerns associated with this plan, we have come up with another hybrid model that we feel will be less burdensome for families with childcare needs. This updated plan will have students who are opting for in-person learning in school for their regular hours Monday through Thursday, with no student attendance in-person on Friday. Like the original hybrid plan, this model will provide our staff with the time needed to work with the students who will be learning in a distance format when school starts. This does NOT mean that students opting for virtual learning will only be able to access their learning on Fridays. Fridays, rather, are designated as workdays for teachers to prepare weekly virtual lessons for the following week for all that are in a distance/virtual learning situation.
It is important to note that our goal is to only be in a hybrid model temporarily; with the goal of moving to regular full-time in-person learning, five days a week, as soon as possible. We will continue to review data and work with the county health department to determine how to safely serve the educational needs of our students.
Finally, we know wholeheartedly, there is no one-size-fits-all plan, there is no perfect plan, and regardless of what is planned, we all must be adaptable as we know it could all change at any given moment. We have tried to provide some answers below on some anticipated questions you may have based on this process.
1. Why are we not doing a similar plan as Dubuque Community Schools with their hybrid plan addressing social distancing?
To follow proper social distancing guidance of 6 feet, we would have to split our students up into groups of 3 or 4, depending on the different classroom sizes. This would mean students would rotate and only attend in-person schooling on a 1 out of every 3 or 1 out of every 4 days. For family schedules, childcare, bus routes/transportation, district finances, and making academically sound decisions, this would simply lead us to going to a full virtual learning plan.
2. What is the plan for positive cases?
We continue to wait for guidance from our counties regarding student attendance (Dubuque, Jones, and Jackson). In lieu of having their direct guidance, we will follow the guidelines from the Linn County Public Health.
“Students that are identified to have a positive case of COVID-19 will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days. Anyone that was within 6 feet of this individual for 15 minutes or longer, will also be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days.” - Linn County Public Health
Students who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or are diagnosed positive must immediately notify their building administrator.
3. What will these Fridays look like for my child?
If your child is attending school from Monday-Thursday, your child will not attend school on Friday, however, teachers will assign some academic content to continue at home.
If your child is not attending schooling Monday-Thursday out of your choice OR because of short-term quarantine, Friday is a day that he or she can contact teachers with questions or to get direct assistance with the work that has been provided virtually all week.
Teachers will spend Fridays supporting virtual students as needed and preparing/uploading all virtual content for the following week for distance students.
4. What is the process to make an official decision on if my child(ren) will be attending in-person, virtually, or choosing to unenroll from WDCSD to homeschool or attend another school?
Official registration information will be coming out in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for more information on this process.
Thank you and take care of yourself and your family.
Rick Colpitts, Superintendent
Western Dubuque Community School District