Weekly Update: July 2, 2020
Weekly Update: July 2, 2020
Dear Grinnell Newburg Board of Education, Staff, Families and Friends:
Below is our first draft of the gist for the return to learn plan that we will share under the superintendent’s report on Wednesday in which it is my hope to gather feedback from our Board as we navigate these challenging times. I recognize that there will be a lot of questions and comments about this plan as we navigate. This is what we know as of today as presented in a Q&A format. Please know that our work is not complete. We have much left to work on regarding the details of the plan, and our principals and staff are working hard to ensure our families know the detailed plan.
Grinnell Newburg School District Families:
July 8, 2020 Update for Board discussion.
This document attempts to answer some of your most basic questions about the district’s plans to help keep students, families and staff safe when school starts back up again in the fall and what adjustments will be made to the educational process.
What will school look like this fall when we return?
The district has worked closely this summer with officials from the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa’s Area Education Agencies, local health and safety experts, and neighboring school leaders to plan for providing all students with a quality learning experience in the fall. The focus of these conversations has been on two major objectives: 1.) keeping students and staff safe; and 2.) educating students to the best of our ability given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in.
With those objectives in mind, our return in the fall will have a different feel. The Iowa Department of Education has asked school districts to plan for three models of delivering education based on possible scenarios, which include: face-to-face learning on-site, required “continuous learning” at home, and a combination of both. The Grinnell Newburg School District has planned for all three models and at this time and we are planning on all students returning to school, with modifications depending upon the grade level, for “how we do school at each level.” The principals are working on the specific details of the return to learn plan and it will be presented to the SIAC Committee and the Curriculum Committee in mid July. The gist of the overall plan will be presented to the board on July 8, 2020.
The overview of the plan is as follows:
Return to Learn: We have submitted the DE checklist and you will see this on the agenda for approval. This was step one. This has been a challenge with a variety of documents provided by the AEA and the DE and to keep up with as we navigate the plethora of resources. Therefore the best way that the admin team decided to navigate this will be in stages. At the July 8, 2020 board meeting, I will be sharing a powerpoint that will highlight the overarching focus and structure for bringing students back to school and share our challenges as we bring students on campus.
When will we see the entire plan?
Process for Return to Learn plan communication:
On July 8, 2020 I will be reviewing the overarching plan and guidance with the Board for discussion and Feedback. This overview recommendation will have phases as we navigate the particulars of the plan:
Mid July: SIAC and Curriculum Committee will review the specific detailed document of the plan for the district. This document will be public at this meeting (The Board will have access to the full draft document).
July 22, we will ask the Board to approve the final plan at a special board meeting.
July 23, communication and voice reach will go out to our families communicating the approval of the plan and where to find the document for review.
Can you share with families the gist of the plan? Are we coming back together to our schools?
Yes: Our plan is to bring students back on school grounds in different ways depending upon their grade level through clustering of students, use of PPE, and modification of schedules. The administration is currently working on the specifics of the schedule and how students will navigate at school.
What is the gist of students returning?
Our plan is for students in K-8 to be on site for learning full time. High School scheduling to cluster students is challenging and we are working through course requirements and finding ways to cluster students while at school.
We are currently working on clustering students K-8 to return to school on August 24, 2020. They will remain in one classroom, be pulled in small groups, for PE, music, and advanced courses, and will have one of three options, face coverings, face shields, or plexiglass (to provide a break from PPE). We know that we can not eliminate the virus completely, but we can minimize it so as to not have the entire school affected.
We need students to be in school. I have had conversations with physicians regarding the importance of students being in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits” (AAP, COVID-19 2020 return to school). We feel confident that we can cluster students in grades Prek-8, and have them present in school all day. We are working on grades 9-12 schedule to ensure we can cluster and have students on campus. If parents are not comfortable returning, we will have staff zoom lessons daily for those that would like to remain at home.
What about high school? How will they attend school this fall?
High School is challenging to have all students return together as we can't cluster due to the course work, how students are mixed for classes, and the ability for students to meet graduation requirements. Students on campus will use PPE. At this time we are navigating how to cluster students to have them on campus. It is my expectation that we will have a finalized draft of the schedule in the coming weeks. The plan at this time is to share with the Board the challenges of clustering and course requirements, and share scenarios of what it could look like for this fall with all students on campus or in a hybrid model.
When will we know the details of the plan?
The elementary, middle, and high school school principals are working with their building leadership teams on a detailed plan that will be shared with parents and the community on what learning will look like virtually, only if necessary due to a closure, hybrid (for families that will have their student remain at home to learn) and on-site. This is a very detailed document and roughly 50 pages long. This document will be shared with SIAC committee members and the Board Curriculum Committee within the next few weeks. All of our documents are working documents, and as guidance continues to be provided, changes are being made. We are inching our way closer each day toward the final plan with detailed specifics.
Will my student be required to wear a face covering during the day?
The answer here is yes, but with the ability to not have to wear it all day long due to other mitigation measures we are implementing.
PPE: Students will wear either a face shield, (supplied by the district), face mask (encourage you to buy your own, we will have back up), or sit behind a plexiglass system to provide breaks from PPE wearing. Any student, guest, and staff member will be required to wear some sort of face covering or sit behind a plexiglass system when they are not able to social distance themselves. Please know that we recognize that some students may not be able to wear a face covering all day if they have special needs or concerns. We will work with our families to ensure that our students are comfortable. If parents do not want their student to wear a face mask, then they will have the option to learn from home and zoom into their class.
It is important that students will be required to wear a mask, face shield, or have the ability to sit behind a plexi shield in the classroom. All students in grades K-8 will remain in one classroom. Teachers will move to them for instruction. It is important that due to the inability to comfortably social distance ourselves in school, that we minimize the spread. We know that we will not stop the spread of the virus. Small groups will come together for Physical Education and Music classes for the purpose of social distancing as wearing face coverings during these times are not recommended. Art classes and accelerated classes will be organized in a manner to meet the needs of our students. These details are forthcoming.
High School Student Schedule: What will the High School Schedule look like for this Fall?
Currently the high school staff is working on a solution to bring students back on campus via on-site where we can cluster students. We will be sharing further details of this plan in the coming weeks following our board discussion on Wednesday.
Under what conditions would you consider an online learning the most appropriate option for students and staff?
In the event that COVID-19 spikes in our community, we will collaborate with the IDPH to determine if we will have all students PreK-12th return to required on-line learning and school will not be in session in the facilities. Communication will come from the superintendent in the event that we will serve students educationally on-line.
I understand that the governor, Iowa’s public health officials, and the district have come up with guidance they feel will allow school to open in the fall. But what if I still don’t feel safe sending my child back to school?
We want your student’s educational experience to be as positive as possible this year despite the circumstances we are all dealing with related to Covid-19. We will work with those families who have reservations about their student(s) coming back to school face-to-face and attempt to work out a plan that everyone is comfortable with. We know that some students and staff have special health concerns that make the decision to return especially challenging. We want to partner to work through those situations. Grinnell will require students and staff to wear face masks, face shield, or to use a plexiglass material as they sit at their desk. We believe that students will need to have a few options as some students may not be able to wear a mask all day. It is important to know that if we are unable to social distance, then masks, face shields or other protective material is our only option if we are to be in school learning. For families who are not comfortable returning to school, we will offer on-line learning for those families.
How will lunch be served?
Breakfast and lunch will be provided as a grab and go option. Please know that we are working out the details of creating small eating areas in which we will be able to socially distance ourselves while eating.
What steps will the district take to monitor current COVID-19 activity in our area?
The school district will collaborate with the Iowa Department of Public Health, local health officials and our Health and Safety task force to continue to track county metrics not only for our county but those surrounding us.
In the event a student or district staff member tests positive for COVID-19, how will the district notify those that have potentially been exposed?
District administration will implement our Covid-19 response safety plan and work directly with our school nurse and the Iowa Department of Public Health.
How will the district monitor students’ health?
Students will have their temperature taken at the door upon arrival to school. Our school nurses will assist families as needed in the event of illness.
What symptoms should we be aware of prior to sending our children to school?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19:
Fever or chills (temperature of 100.3 F or above)
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
Recent loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
This list does not include all possible symptoms. The CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.
A PowerPoint presentation will be provided for our families to review each area of our Return to Learn Plan. The principals are currently working on a detailed scheduled document that will be released in the next few weeks. This will be reviewed by the SIAC, Curriculum Committee and will be made available on July 15, 2020 for review prior to a special board meeting that will be scheduled on July 22, 2020.
I want to thank all of our staff, administrators, community members, EMA, IDPH, and local physicians for their assistance and guidance.
I hope that you all enjoy a wonderful weekend. Please know that the district recognized July 4th Holiday is tomorrow. Therefore our offices are closed.