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‘Send the kids back’

Parents urge school board to ditch hybrid learning model; In-person learning to begin in two weeks

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Webster City High School will return to full-time in-person learning on Jan. 25, following action taken by the school board Monday night. The high school had been using a hybrid model in which students attended every other day in-person and used remote learning on the off days. More that 20 parents sent emails to the board requesting the move back to full-time learning.

More than 20 parents submitted comments to the Webster City school board Monday night as the board considered extending the hybrid learning model at the high school.

After hearing the comments and discussing options, the board voted to move back to 100 percent in-person learning at the high school.

With more than 60 people listenting in to the meeting on the Zoom platform, Dr. Mandy Ross, superintendent of schools, read 10 of the email letters from concerned parents. Most of comments related to the questions as to why the elementary school and middle school students could attend full-time, while the high schoolers could only attend every other day using the 4×4 hybrid model.

Still others said their students had suffered negative outcomes because of the learning model.

“We need to send the kids back,” said Amy Shannon in her email. “I don’t know why we are letting this sham of hybrid learning to continue.”

Zach Klaver urged the board to vote to return to in-person learning. He said the benefits of in-person learning included social-emotional skills, helping students to stay engaged and learn social norms and discipline.

Kari Rabe said she found it “ridiculous” that her third grader could attend every day, but her high school student could not.

“Kids should be in school. We need to think outside of the box,” she said.

Ross presented a PowerPoint presentation on some of the data relating to the current learning model.

A survey sent was sent out to high school parents and students in November. At that time, 70.6 percent of the parents responded that the hybrid model was working well, while 81.4 percent of the students thought the model was going well.

Some of the parent emails mentioned that many other schools had been using full-time in-person learning since August. Ross pointed out in her presentation that Des Moines schools will be going to a hybrid model on Jan. 4. Dallas Center-Grimes aare using a 4×4 hybrid model. Ames elementary schools are 100 percent in-person while the middle schools and high school are using a remote learning option. But, Ross said the district may go to in person Feb. 1.

Ross said she had gleaned some ideas from the parents’ emails she received. One idea would be to have the high school cohort groups attend every day for half days or find additional locations off-site to expand classroom space.

High School Principal Dan Johnson said the half-day model would present problems for those who attend Iowa Central classes during the day.

Board member Rich Stroner suggested that the high school send out another survey and then hold a special meeting later this week to make a decision.

Marlin Pruismann, board member, said he wasn’t interested in sending out another survey. He said it was time to return to full-time in-person classes.

“I don’t give a rip about what a survey says,” Pruismann said. “I’m for all day, everyday.”

Stroner commented that the reason middle school was able to operate on a full-time basis was that it was designed to provide separation. Stroner said the board specifically worked to provide the largest classrooms possible and separated the grades into different wings.

Johnson said that if the district was to seek off-site locations, ICCC has three rooms available that would provide space for between 14 and 20 students per class. He said he was also investigating other spaces at area churches.

Other areas that the board discussed included using the PE gym, the lobby areas outside the competition gym and outside of the auditorium.

Johnson said he would like to have two weeks to organize and plan for a return to in-person learning. The new semester begins next week, but said the in-person learning could start on Jan. 25.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Ross said. “It’s not just the teaching and learning. We’ve got to look at food service, transportation — we’ll be busy in the next two weeks.”

The board requested that Ross give a report on the spaces that will be used to extend classroom areas at the Jan. 25 school board meeting.

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