District staff provides abundance of information
Parents of students took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions regarding the Return to Learn plan put in place at the Marshalltown Community School District.
MCSD is encouraging parents to enroll their children in on-site learning, and is also offering remote continuous learning for those who are unable or unwilling to physically return to the buildings when school begins Aug. 25.
District administrative staff and some building principals hosted a digital FAQ session on Wednesday for parents. A lot of information was presented in 90 minutes.
Superintendent Theron Schutte reminded parents of the precautions the district is putting in place for on-site learning. All staff will have daily temperatures taken. Schutte said the district is working on a plan for daily temperatures of students.
“Right now we’ve just been saying random regular testing,” he said. “Maybe it’s every other day or every third day but our goal and hopes is to figure out how to do it every day for all the students that are on-site.”
Schutte said the district has purchased temp-screening walk-through devices, as well as hand-held.
Face coverings will be required as soon as students get on school property. Schutte said there will be times when students will not need to wear masks, such as meal times. The district is also providing high-quality face shields for all students and staff. Desk shields for all students have also been purchased. Schutte said the desk shields will create an additional protective barrier for students.
“With face coverings and desk shields, we should be able to safely function with 3-foot social distancing,” he said.
Students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons will need to provide documentation. Schutte said those students will need to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
Signs to remind people about maintaining the pandemic practices will be placed in the buildings and district personnel are establishing traffic patterns for students to follow. Visitors will be significantly restricted and must wear masks.
Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson said 845 parents had committed to virtual learning, and many of the questions submitted for the FAQ revolved around that education option.
She said attendance will be taken with the virtual learning option, and grades will be given.
“We hope you are confident in our efforts to mitigate the virus and bring all kids back together, but we do recognize that every family has their own challenges in their decision and we respect your ability to make that choice for your family,” Stevenson said.
Marshalltown High School Principal Jacque Wyant said she has been working on ways to reduce the number of interactions between students and staff. She said as a result, a block schedule will be put into place. Three blocks of classes will be held in any given school day.
The high school hallways will be clearly marked with arrows to indicate one-way traffic.
“That means it might be a little longer to get from one class to another class,” Wyant said.
However, additional time has been added between classes to give students enough time to journey from one point to another. The high school will be opened for lunch to give students the opportunity to leave campus and eat, as there is not enough room to provide social distancing for more than 400 students during lunchtime.
Miller Middle School Principal Dave Glenn said similar procedures have been adopted at the middle school, such as marked hallways. He said a block schedule will be implemented.
“Half of your typical schedule will be completed on an ‘A day’ and the other half will be completed on a ‘B day,'” Glenn said. “That will greatly reduce the number of times students are passing.”
Breakfasts and lunches will more than likely be served in classrooms, Glenn said.
Reducing the number of students in restrooms and increasing hygiene practices is something Miller Middle School staff are working on.
Lenihan Intermediate Principal Kyle Young said an area for breakfast will be set up for students to grab right away when they enter the building. Students will be able to eat breakfast in their classrooms.
Young asked parents to make sure no one shows up before 8 a.m. each day so there will not be a large gathering of children before school begins. Signs to direct hallway traffic will be put in place.
Young said one of the benefits of Lenihan is the large music rooms.
“We can have appropriate distance and we can clean those between uses,” he said.
Procedures have been established to prohibit restroom lines and groups of students in the restrooms. Recess will continue to be held.
“Classes will be assigned an area because we want to limit exposure,” Young said.
He said Lenihan staff are working on an interactive back-to-school night so parents can get more information about what the school year will look like.
“Give you information about where your classes are, who your teachers are, what it’s going to look like, give you tours of the building,” Young said. “We’re working as a team to put that together.”
Hoglan Elementary Principal Amy Williams represented the six elementary buildings in the FAQ session. She said students will be screened for temperatures and signs will be up to guide the hallway traffic.
“We will provide some extra supervision as much as possible for our students because we know with our younger learners, it’s going to take a lot of teaching, reteaching, acknowledgement for students who are doing the right thing,” Williams said.
Students will be kept in their assigned homerooms as much as possible to avoid cross contamination.
Sometimes students share things, such as instruments during music class.
“That will no longer be something we recommend, but instead, for example, individual supplies will be available to students that they will use,” she said.
Elementary recess will be held outside and homeroom students will go out together. Williams said staff are working on games and activities students can participate in that limit usage of playground equipment.
In most cases, Williams said meals will be served in classrooms, since most of the elementary lunchrooms do not provide enough space for social distancing.
“We are going to work to make sure safety and health of students and staff is our priority,” Williams said.
Parents submitted more than 250 questions for district personnel to answer during the FAQ.
The questions were varied, with some already answered when the principals gave their presentations.
One question was how dual-language students will be supported who choose online learning.
“That’s a really great question,” Stevenson said. “To be honest, we are waiting to see who RSVPs to see which families are choosing online learning and if those families are from the dual-language program. Hopefully some of our teachers who teach remotely are bilingual. If not, we’re going to have to get creative and figure out ways to support those students.”
Another question was if a child is exposed to COVID-19, can that student engage in the online learning option. Stevenson said the district is waiting on information from the Iowa Department of Public Health on the best way to respond when there is exposure in school. She said those students will not use the established online learning platforms because of the short duration of their time at home after exposure, but the district will figure out how to keep those students engaged in their education.
One parent asked what they could do to help teach the importance of masks and social distancing.
“This is a parent after my own heart,” Stevenson said. “Yes, parents, please. You can help us a lot in these next four weeks before your child comes back by practicing having them wear face coverings. The same with social distancing – really try to give them ideas of what 3 feet and 6 feet look like. Praising them when they do the right thing. Yes, that would be very helpful if parents would do that.”
Another question that was submitted is what role the district plays in mitigating community spread of COVID-19. Does putting thousands of children together put the community in a vulnerable position?
“So obviously this is a pointed question,” Schutte said. “People are polarized depending on how strongly they feel whether students should or shouldn’t be in school. That’s why we’re providing two distinct options to try to best accommodate as many of our parents and their beliefs and their desires as possible. We will not intentionally bring students back into school in an unsafe situation.”
Stevenson apologized for not being able to answer all of the questions in the allotted time, but she assured people their questions would eventually be answered.
“Stay tuned. We will see you soon,” Stevenson said.
Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or email@example.com.