District seeks creation of virtual academy
Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson and Marshalltown Learning Academy Principal Eric Goslinga sought approval from the Marshalltown Community School Board on Tuesday to create the Marshalltown Virtual Academy.
The Academy would continue online only learning beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have found a number of students and families who have found this to be a highly desirable way to learn,” Goslinga said.
Stevenson said she is unsure where community interest will be for an online only school after wide distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, but wants to be prepared to meet the needs of the 25 percent of students who chose remote learning.
Board member Jan McGinnis said the idea for Marshalltown Virtual Academy is, “a work in progress,” but believes online only learning should continue.
“I noticed things that need to be discussed and things that need to be changed because it’s brand new to everyone,” McGinnis said. “But I agree it offers a lot of flexibility for the high school and it could offer a lot of flexitbility for the middle school, we’ve got some students that are having health issues or some social issues.”
With the goal for the Marshalltown Learning Academy to be budget neutral, staff interested in teaching may be repurposed instead of hiring new staff.
“We’ve had some teachers this year that really, really love doing what they’re doing and hope to continue and some that do not, which is fine,” Stevenson said.
The school board unanimously approved to allow district administration to begin the process of applying to the Iowa Department of Education for accreditation of Marshalltown Virtual Academy.
The board also discussed plans for how the district will move forward into the new year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional paid leave days for employees affected by COVID-19 and a plan to seek accreditation for an all virtual learning school were approved by the school board Tuesday night.
Signed into law last March, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required certain employers to provide employees 10 additional paid sick days beyond an employee’s allotted sick days if the leave is related to COVID-19.
When impacted by COVID-19 under FFCRA provisions, Marshalltown Community School District employees become eligible for a one time use of two weeks of sick leave not deducted from their existing total of sick days.
Provisions from the FFCRA ended for the public sector at the beginning of 2021. However, Superintendent Theron Schutte recommended extending FFCRA benefits for district employees until the end of March when the provisions end for the private sector. The resolution would not add additional sick days, but keep them available for employees.
“It simply provides equity for our employees,” Schutte said. “Some were fortunate to avoid a COVID-related leave or had minimal number of needs, and some absolutely needed use that first semester.”
Employees will receive 100 percent of their pay with a daily capacity of $511 during leave if they are ordered by government officials or a health care provider to quarantine, or if they are awaiting a diagnosis while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Employees will receive two-thirds of their usual pay with a $200 daily capacity if caring for an individual in isolation or self-quarantine, caring for a child whose school or daycare has closed due to COVID-19 or if the employee is experiencing something substantially similar condition to COVID-19.
Schutte said the district intends to fund the extra paid leave days through the upcoming second allocation of funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The resolution was passed by the school board unanimously.
Contact Trevor Babcock
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