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WC school board approves Return to Learn plan

The Webster City school board Monday night approved the district’s Return to Learn plan which is being submitted to the Iowa Department of Education on July 1.

The plan outlines how the district proposes to return to classes after several months of shutdown due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan includes three different models, which Superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross said would allow the district to be fluid with the changing conditions in Webster City.

The three models include onsite learning, which would resemble tradition classroom-style learning; hybrid learning which would involve modified instructional delivery; and the third is remote learning, like what was offered this spring.

Ross said that 48 staff members were involved in four work groups to look at the issues related to a return to school. She said the four key elements to the plan are to help all students catch up on learning they missed during the school closure, to help integrate public health strategies into the schools and day-to-day operations, to plan for moving between the three instructional models and to ensure all students have access to remote learning should the district need to move to that model.

“We know that with the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County in recent days, every aspect of plan needs to be fluid and could change quickly,” she said.

She said that with the onsite learning model, the staff is working to ensure safe practices, including cleaning and social distancing possibilities. She said the hybrid model could be implemented in different ways depending upon the age of the students. She said the plan could involve having half of the students attend classes on specified days of the week, while the other half participates in remote learning.

“Then later, the two groups flip-flop so that both groups have ongoing teacher contact,” Ross said.

The remote continuous model would involve having students learning offsite with a common technology platform.

She said last spring when schools closed, only high school students were required to participate in school learning to ensure they could continue earning credits. The younger grades were considered voluntary learners.

However, this fall according to the Iowa Department of Education, all three educational delivery models will be required learning. It won’t be optional for anyone should we have to move into the other models later,” Ross said.

Ross said that the work groups looked at many different aspects for the coming schools year, including transportation, food and nutrition, facilities, athletics and activities, nursing and health, professional development, mitigation, technology and internet access, use of face masks and shields. She added that the groups are looking at keeping with the established school calendar which would mean school would start on Aug. 24.

Ross told the board that more specific details would be coming in the next month. Families should look for a survey that will be offered in July, likely through the school’s Infinite Campus portal and on the District website.

“This is a high-level view of the work that has been going on to prepare for fall,” Ross said. “Our teams will be providing much more detail in the coming weeks, starting with the July 13 board meeting.”

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