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Superintendent outlines Return to Learn plan

WC?School District to start the year with in-person classes

Students in the Webster City Community School District will start the new academic year with in-person classes. Superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross and other members of the Webster City Schools administration gave a more detailed look at how the new year will look during Monday’s school board meeting.

The board met in-person at the administration building with members of the public dialing in to listen and ask questions via the Zoom conferencing platform.

“As you can imagine, trying to reinvent 150 years of education in a matter of months is no small feat,” Ross said. “It does not help matters that the coronavirus situation continues to create new decisions everyday.”

The board submitted its initial plan to the Iowa Department of Education on July 1. But Gov. Kim Reynolds on July 17 added some additional conditions for the start of the school year. Reynolds proclamation prioritized in-person learning and requires students to be in the classroom for at least 50 percent of their learning. Parents, however, have the option to choose remote learning for their children if they have concerns about returning to the classroom during the pandemic.

Ross said she and her staff had been working since March to analyze and address all aspects of the district’s operations.

“That’s created some interesting challenges and really an analysis of how we do business,” she said.

When schools moved to remote learning at the end of March, just high school students were required to take part in the online learning. All others were considered voluntary.

This fall, all students, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, will be required to take part in the learning plan.

A few of the cornerstones of the plan include social distancing at 3-feet with students and staff using face coverings or face shields.

“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3-foot and face coverings does make an impact in controlling the virus. That’s an important piece, because 6-foot (social distancing) is working under the assumption that we do not have a face covering,” Ross said.

Ross said since the district was requiring face coverings, a mask and face shield will be provided for each student and staff member.

Routines for hand washing and sanitizing will be established and the district will minimize transitions of students. Additionally, there will be no large group gatherings, such as assemblies or field trips.

Each building will also limit guests to minimize the risk of spreading the virus, Ross said.

Ross said the four learning models are much the same as what other districts around the state are doing. The district will start the year with the first model, which is in-person learning for all students with mitigation procedures in place. Ninth through 12th grade would operate in an AB hybrid.

The second model would involved in-person learning for pre-k through 8th grade and hybrid for 9th through 12th if needed. If the situations warranted, Ross said the third model would move all students into the hybrid learning situation.

“That schedule would mean that every student is seeing a teacher every other day,” Ross said

The fourth model would put all students on the remote learning path.

The pre-K through 8th model would involve all students attending classes every day, while using face coverings and maintaining social distances.

High school students would learn under what Ross called a 4×4 Hybrid. She said instruction would be double period classes which would be completed in half of the length of time as traditional classes. Instead of a 9 week or 18-week class, it would be half that time, she explained.

“This 4×4 block is a delivery system for instruction that has been around for probably 30 years,” she said. “It’s not a new model, but it would be new to us in Webster City.”

Ross said the 4×4 block would minimize transitions between classes and provide more opportunities for social distancing.

High School Principal Dan Johnson explained that with the AB hybrid model that the 9th through 12th grade in the first model, students will attend classes in two groups every other day. The other group of students would attend on the opposite days.

During the days they are not in class, the students would use Google Classroom for remote learning, he said.

If a family chooses to go with fully remote learning, the 9th through 12th grade students will be using EdGuity Software and will receive support from teachers in the district, Ross said. She added that the district would like to hear from parents by Wednesday, Aug. 12 if they are planning to have their children learn fully remotely.

The district will also be preparing for a switch to remote learning if that move becomes necessary. Ross said remote learning could be used for snow days, which would mean the district would not have to make the days up.

Buses will require students and staff to wear face coverings and there will be only one student per seat, but siblings can share a seat. The bus scramble will still be in place, but Ross encouraged parents to use alternate transportation if possible.

The calendar will slightly change for the upcoming school year. Aug. 24 and 25 will be devoted to individual orientation with teachers at each building and grade level. Parents will be notified of an online scheduler that will be put in place to reserve a time spot.

Classes will start Aug. 26 for group A students and Aug. 27 for group B students. Ross said that would allow the cohorts to about the school procedures.

The first full instruction day would be Aug. 28. The end of the first trimester for pre-k to 8th grade would be Nov. 18 and the end of the first quarter for the high school would be Oct. 27. The last day of school will be Friday, May 28, 2021.

Plans are still being discussed for band and chorus, according to Ross. She noted that data shows the spread of germs is more likely with singing and through the use of band instruments. Small group lessons might be possible, the superintendent said. No performances are planned for this school year, she said.

Each building has developed its own mealtime plans. Some classes will eat in the classroom or lunchroom, others will eat outside when the weather allows. High school and middle school students will socially distance in the commons and cafeteria areas, and high schoolers will be allowed to eat in the courtyard, weather permitting.

The superintendent said electrostatic cleaning of each classroom will take place each evening and on the buses after the morning and then the evening routes. Face shields will be cleaned daily and face masks will be washed each day.

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