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Marshall Schools transition to total in-person Learning

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS — Students and teachers back in school after hybrid learning ends, returning to a fully in-person learning option.

The halls of the Marshalltown Community School District middle schools and high schools are full once again, with students nearly two weeks into their return to the total in-person learning option.

“I just smiled when I walked into the band room and the whole band was playing music together again,” Marshalltown High School Principal Jacque Wyant said. “I literally had goosebumps.”

She said there was some fear from teachers regarding in-person learning, but all teachers who want the COVID-19 vaccine have received their first dose.

“Now that they’ve received their first shot and everyone is here, they’ve all settled in,” Wyant said.

A few students expressed they haven’t fully adjusted to total in-person learning Wyant said, and is working with them to meet their needs.

“In some cases it might feel like their anxiety is getting up because there’s more people in the building. So we work with those kids to help them cope with or reduce that anxiety or facilitate whatever transition to another learning style is needed,” Wyant said.

One-way traffic in hallways has been more of a challenge to maintain, with some students wondering why mitigation efforts are still in place if the school has returned to in-person learning.

“There’s a perception of, ‘We’re all back together, so why are we still doing this,'” Wyant said, but most students are continuing to remain responsible with COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as wearing masks, social distancing and using desk shields in classrooms and cafeteria.

She said it is interesting to see classrooms with more desk shields up, and teachers have had to find creative ways to keep students engaged.

Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson said the desk shields and social distancing efforts have had teachers switching up their typical lesson plans.

“Finding ways for kids to still connect and talk and learn from each other and teach other has been challenging,” Stevenson said. “Maybe a teacher has a lesson or a book or an activity that’s always been used, and they’ve had to rethink how they can present it with safety and mitigation in mind.”

She said teachers have also had to adjust the pace of homework and assessments.

“Some students have some catching up to do that were maybe not maximizing their time at home when they were in hybrid learning,” Stevenson said.

State assessments have become an issue Stevenson said, putting a lot of pressure on students and teachers while the school is trying to maximize in-person time. The schools were hoping to get state assessments waived for this year.

“In this year where we’ve all been teaching and learning under such strange circumstances, it’s a big concern with all the kids being back and using time we don’t really have,” Stevenson said. “We’re talking hours of time for these assessments that we know are going to show us that these kids aren’t where we would normally expect them to be pre-COVID.”

Wyant said the school is starting to think about what graduation will look like, and will meet with students to determine what a potential prom could look like if done safely. She said Marshalltown schools will continue to follow recommendations from the Marshall County Public Health Department regarding in-person events, and stressed the need to keep mitigation efforts in place.

Appreciating the flexibility of parents, students and staff, Wyant said she is amazed at how everyone has adapted to changes.

“I know we don’t all agree on how some of these things are handled, what COVID is or isn’t, as long as everyone understands we are just trying to keep everyone safe,” Wyant said.

Marshalltown Community School District Director of Transportation Rex Kozak said the transition has gone smoothly with increased students on bus routes, but the planning beforehand was stressful.

“We were dealing with so much unknown,” Kozak said. “We were really looking at our headcount, and the principals and the secretaries did a great job keeping us up to date on what they knew, and in our world that’s the real crux of it all.”

Kozak has also worked closely with Marshalltown Municipal Transit to provide students with transportation if they don’t qualify for a school bus route.

He said less than a quarter of families have been using the new StopFinder smartphone app allowing users to track the location of buses and set alerts when the buses are nearing their stop, and is encouraging more families to use the app.

Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com

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