District to continue hybrid learning in third quarter

T-R photo by Lana Bradstream Marshalltown Community School Board President Bea Niblock breaks from her leader position to second the return-to-learn recommendation made by Superintendent Theron Schutte.

The Marshalltown Community School Board, during the regular Monday meeting, approved the recommendation of Superintendent Theron Schutte and Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson to continue the hybrid return-to-learn model during the third quarter.

However, board members Mike Miller and Sara Faltys voted in opposition.

“I voted last time ‘no,'” Miller said. “I thought this all a decision about trade off between risk and reward. I’m going to vote ‘no’ this time for the same reasons.”

Schutte told the board that nothing has really changed relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 23 different mitigation strategies the district implemented to protect students and staff.

“We are hopeful by the end of March and by the end of the third quarter, at a minimum, we are in a position of having all of our employees vaccinated, which I think based on what we’re hearing from the federal government is a real possibility,” he said. “I think at the time that occurs, we can give more serious consideration to the possibility of bringing more students back every day at the secondary level at Miller and at Marshalltown High School.”

He said the concern is the number of people versus the size of the classrooms is being able to ensure 3-foot social distancing. Based on the rates of COVID-19 spread within school buildings, the district has been able to keep the spread to a minimum, Schutte told the board.

“Our plan would be to continue to stay the course,” he said.

Schutte said the district cannot appease the desires of some people to return to school full-time and others who want to keep kids out of school at all times. He said the hybrid model is the best way to ensure everyone has a safe environment until the more than 900 district employees are vaccinated.

Miller said even though he understands everything Schutte said, he believes the district can push it farther and get kids back in school.

“We’re doing real damage to them emotionally and educationally by keeping them out,” Miller said. “I understand and appreciate everything you said. I just have a different viewpoint on it.”

Board member Sean Heitmann made the motion to approve the recommendation. When no other member wanted to second the motion, Board President Bea Niblock vacated the chair to place the second.

School board members who voted in favor of the recommendation included Heitmann, Jan McGinnis and Karina Hernandez — who attended remotely. New member Nicolas “Niko” Aguirre was absent.


Contact Lana Bradstream at



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