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Reopening School Buildings for the Fall of 2020
Reopening School Buildings for the Fall of 2020
Darren Hanna
Tuesday, July 07, 2020

On March 16, 2020 our world changed dramatically with the closing of schools for COVID-19.  At that time most of us could not have imagined that students would not return to school in the 2019-20 school year and yet it became a reality .  We now find ourselves looking towards the beginning of the 2020-21 with many of the unanswered questions still in front of us.  

On June 25, 2020 The Iowa Department of Education published Reopening Guidance for Schools.  The guidance from the State did not include Social Distancing and did not recommend requiring face coverings.  We have been told that further clarification from the Iowa Department of Education will be forthcoming.  

As with many things in Iowa “Everything is Local”.  It will be crucial for our school and our communities to build consensus on how to proceed with the 2020-21 school year.  The consensus must be built around balancing the importance of children attending school and keeping each other and our families safe.  

If as a community we set as our priority that the vast majority of students should attend school in person, social distancing will have limitations.  Most schools including ours, will not have the space to ensure that all students are in the building and have the ability to keep them six feet apart.  The same holds true for busing.  

If we as a community set our priorities around social distancing then we will have online learning as a bigger part of our plan.  In this plan, we all need to prepare for more students to be at home for a greater portion of the school year.

It is clear to me that if we were to implement social distancing in our buildings we would not be able to have all of the students in the building at one time.  The following are alternate schedules that have been presented to help schools social distance.  

One-Day Rotation

Students report to school one full day a week at all levels (e.g., Elementary, Middle and High) for four days. Students will be provided assignments to support their learning on the days in which they do not report to school that could include paper, pencil, distance learning, or a combination. All English for Speakers of Other Languages, Special Education, and resource teachers will work with small groups of students to reduce the student teacher ratios to 10 or less in each learning environment. Fine Arts, Physical Education and Health teachers

would be included in the rotations to reduce the student teacher ratios. * One day is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students will not report to school, distance learning will continue.

Two-Day Rotation

All students report to school two full days a week (e.g., Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/ Friday). Students would be provided assignments to support their learning on the days in which they do not report to school that could include paper, pencil, eLearning or a combination.

All English for Speakers of Other Languages, Special Education, and resource teachers will work with small groups of students to reduce the student teacher ratios to 10 or less in each learning environment. Fine Arts teachers, Physical Education and Health will be included in the rotations to reduce the student teacher ratios. * One day is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students will not report to school, distance learning will continue.

Three  Day Cycle

Schools divide students into A, B, and C groups, and have students take classes in-person every third day. In this model, special education students, English-language learners, and other vulnerable children like homeless students attend classes in person every day.

A.M./P.M

Half of the students come to school in the morning while the other half comes in the afternoon. Schools divide the students based on grade levels or alphabetically, in order to keep siblings on the same schedule.

Pros: Schools avoid some bottlenecks, including arrival, departure, and lunchtime. Morning-shift students could grab an individually packaged meal on their way home. All students would get in-person instruction daily.

A/B Week

Half of the student population will report to school for four full days each week, while the remaining second half of the school population participates in distance learning at home. The student population will alternate between each week. All grade bands will be included. Students will be provided assignments to support their learning on the days in which they do not report to school that could include paper, pencil, eLearning or a combination.  All English for Speakers of Other Languages, Special Education, and resource teachers will work with small groups of students to reduce the student teacher ratios to 10 or less in each learning environment. Fine Arts teachers, Physical Education and Health will be included in the rotations to reduce the student teacher ratios. * One day is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students will not report to school, distance learning will continue.

Elementary Face-to-Face and Secondary Distance Learning

Elementary students will start school first and attend four full days a week, spread out across two buildings (e.g., Elementary and Middle) to reduce the student teacher ratio to support social distancing. Secondary students would complete distance learning. This would continue until it is deemed appropriate by the public health officials that it is safe to relax the social distancing. Once it is deemed safe, elementary students would transition back to their home school and secondary students would start.

All elementary English for Speakers of Other Languages, Special Education, and resource teachers will work with small groups of students to reduce the student teacher ratios to 10 or less in each learning environment. Fine Arts teachers, Physical Education and Health will be included in the rotations to reduce the student teacher ratios. * One day is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students will not report to school, distance learning would continue.

Grade Band Phase-In

The grade band phase-in approach would begin when the public health officials deem it is safe to relax the social distancing. Elementary students will return to school first, for a week. Middle school students would report the second and high school would report the third week. Middle and high school students will continue distance learning while waiting to phase back into school.

Bubble Strategy

Half of the students come to school in the morning while the other half comes in the afternoon. Schools divide the students based on grade levels or alphabetically, in order to keep siblings on the same schedule.

Cyclical Closure Strategy

School buildings regularly alternate between being open and closed, with students staying home for a minimum of 10 days during closure periods. Students attend school one full week, followed by two weeks of remote learning at home.

Another version: Students come to school Monday through Thursday, and then learn from home on Friday and all days of the following week.

Year Round Schedule

The school divides students into groups—one cohort attends school for a set period, roughly nine weeks, while the other cohorts participate in remote learning. The groups would rotate at the end of each period. Breaks from schooling would be more frequent, but shorter than the traditional 10-week summer vacation.

Planning for the 2020-21 School Year

Your voice as a parent is crucial to building a plan that matches the thinking of the school and the community.   As a parent thinking about the start of school in August,  please tell us your priorities for your child/children by filling out the following short survey.  You only need to fill one per family.  

So what will the start of the 2020-21 school year look like?  As a community and as a school district we will have to choose the option that best meets our needs.  We will be surveying parents on their preference.  That information will provide the focus for efforts moving forward.  We will release the final Reopening Plan towards the end of July 2020.

Educationally Yours,

Darren D. Hanna

Superintendent

Emmetsburg Community School District