The Forest City Community School District announced that the Board of Education approved the state-required Return To Learn plans during a special meeting on August 6. The district plans to begin the school year on Monday, August 24, with a model called Traditional Hybrid, pending any changes in the health landscape or new guidance by the Iowa Department of Education and Health officials.
As part of the state-required Return To Learn plans, the district has four learning/instructional models that could be in place at any point during the 2020-21 school year: Traditional Hybrid, Hybrid A/B, Online or Traditional.
“The Governor has stressed the importance of in-person instruction, with the flexibility for families to choose online instruction if preferred,” said Darwin Lehmann, superintendent. “We have taken the guidance from the Department of Education and Public Health officials and put plans in place to do the very best we can to focus on the continued growth and development of our deserving students as well as to keep the health and safety of all students and staff top of mind. Also, we surveyed families this summer and utilized this feedback in developing our plans. We had nearly 500 responses, and 87% shared they would send students onsite if onsite education is available. I can’t stress enough that flexibility and patience will be key as we continue to go through this health crisis together.”
In the Traditional Hybrid model, students K-12 will return to school onsite four days per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday), with a normal school day schedule. Wednesday will be an E-Learning day whereby all students are learning at home. The Wednesday school day will conclude at 2 p.m. for Teacher Professional Development. Preschool will run a normal schedule with either a.m. or p.m. preschool, Monday through Thursday. Given the health crisis, for schools to operate onsite, the district will take proactive and intentional approaches in support of public health. The district has prepared a document that outlines the adjustments in practices and policies called Operations in Support of Public Health. Changes are anticipated and students and parents will be kept up-to-date.
“Families will always have the choice to not send students onsite for learning. We have created a new program called Home Connection, which will allow us to assist families in educating children at home and online. Middle School and High School students would attend classes remotely per the schedule and complete the course work. Elementary students would receive pre-recorded lessons and/or paper packets from a grade-level teacher. Each building also has a resource person identified that will be an additional contact to assist the family,” said Lehmann.
State and Public Health guidance will determine when the district would move into one of the other models. The district has another model called Hybrid A/B. Per the State guidance, if active COVID-19 case levels reach 15-20% positivity rates in the county on average over the past 14 days and there is a 10%+ absenteeism rate, the district may divide students into A and B groups and the two groups would rotate coming to the school buildings and students will learn online the other days.
If the pandemic forces school building closure, all students would move to online instruction. In this event, a schedule will be shared with families. “It’s important to understand that we learned a lot about online instruction from the spring when the pandemic forced the school shutdown. Student, parent and teacher feedback was instrumental in the changes we’ve made. The feedback led to the creation of the new Home Connection program,” said Lehmann.
The final model is called Traditional. It’s the learning/instructional model everyone is accustomed to and the one used pre-pandemic.
“Communication will be so important this year. I can’t thank our Board of Education enough for the volunteer time they have allocated to support students and staff. There are so many individuals that have provided input into our planning and in times like these, there are no easy answers. We are in this together,” Lehmann concluded.
Forest City CSD Operations
The Forest City Community School District is committed to the safety of all students, staff, and visitors at our facilities and at our events. As district facilities open after the COVID-19 related slowdown, the district has considered a variety of measures for keeping people safe. These considerations include practices for scaling up operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, social distancing), monitoring possible re-emergence of illness, and maintaining health operations. The district will follow local, state, and federal health guidelines as well as guidance from the Iowa Department of Education.
Symptom screening of students/staff should be practiced prior to leaving home.
Face coverings (cloth masks, shields, bandanas, or gaiters) required to be worn while on the school bus and onsite during the school day.
Social distancing by students/staff at all possible times.
Students bring personal water bottles; drinking fountains are turned off. Hydration filling stations will remain on.
Students are encouraged to use other forms of transportation, especially in town families if possible.
Drivers will be required to wear face coverings.
Social distancing and face covering expectations in place at bus stops.
Face coverings required for students prior to boarding and throughout the duration of the ride. Disposable masks are provided to those who arrive without one.
AM:Students board back-to-front one person to a seat, alternating seats when possible. Exception:students from the same household should share a seat.
PM:Students board front to back one person to a seat, alternating seats when possible Exception:students from the same household should share a seat.
Open vents/windows when weather allows.
All route buses will be disinfected daily.
Elementary Doors will not open until 7:45 AM.
Elementary students may put gear in coat rooms and then go to their homeroom.
No clustering by main entrance or Common Areas.
Hand sanitizer provided to students upon entry.
Students go directly to 1st period class.
Grab-and-go breakfast offered; students eat in the classroom (1st period class MS/HS and Homeroom classroom for Elementary).
Lockers will not be used between class periods at the MS/HS. Students will bring computer bags or backpacks into the classroom. Coats, cold lunches, and other belongings may be placed in lockers when you arrive in the morning.
Desks will be spaced with maximum distancing given the room size.
Attempts will be made to have all desks/students face the same direction.
Assigned seating (to prevent confusion and facilitate contact tracing, if necessary). Student expectation is to remain seated unless given permission from the teacher.
Face coverings are required for students and staff.
Minimize sharing of school supplies; wiped down with cleaning solution prior to use by new user.
Consider outdoor space for learning, when possible.
K-5 specials (except PE) may be offered in the classroom.
One-way walking lanes established on the right side of the hall.
Students required to wear masks in the halls, apply social distancing, and follow designated hallway traffic patterns.
Floors marked with social distancing reminders.
Building schedule to reflect staggered passing times (Elem./MS). Students line up six feet apart and maintain that distance when traveling to PE or recess (Elem).
Hallways During Class:
Staff will limit sending students to the halls during class.
Staff supervision of halls throughout the day.
Students are expected to wear a face covering in the halls, apply social distancing, and follow designated hallway traffic patterns.
Markings on floor to ensure proper spacing.
Students eat in the classrooms (Grades 2-12).
Washable containers and disposable plasticware will be utilized.
No condiment table or communal stacks, bins, trays, and utensils that would otherwise be accessed by many hands.
Face shield or plexiglass for nutrition services staff.
Increase use of exhaust fans in the kitchen.
Contactless payment will be initiated for the 2020-2021 school year via a bar code on the back of each student’s ID card.
Continue to offer off-site lunches to those learning virtually.
No microwave will be available for student use.
Recess (Pre-K – 5th grade only):
Staggered recess times to offer by class or by grade level when possible. Otherwise, increased supervision to ensure social distancing.
Contact sports/activities will not be allowed.
Face coverings allowed, but not required while outdoors.
Hand sanitizer or staggered hand washing for each student before and after recess.
During inclement weather, indoor recess takes place in the classroom and should involve a social and/or physical activity in which students can engage from their desks.
Staggered dismissal time.
Increased supervision (interior and exterior) to ensure proper distancing.
Face coverings are required to be worn by students until off campus (if walking or riding a bike/scooter), until off the bus (if riding a bus), or until in the vehicle if being picked up by car. Face coverings worn by supervising staff.
Encouraged to use outdoor spaces during lunch/break.
Expectation to wipe down surfaces in commonly accessed staff spaces (e.g. tables, microwave, printers, etc.) between uses.
Floor labeled in office and nurse’s office to ensure proper spacing while waiting in line.
Secretaries will use plexiglass barriers.
Will limit any non-essential visitors. Determined by the building administrator. All visitors must wear a face covering. All visitors must sign in at a school office.
Limit parents dropping off items to only those essential to the student’s day. A table will be available in the vestibule/entrance of each building. Parents dropping off items for their child should utilize the table.
Each building has an isolation room (not nurse’s office) for students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
There will be no large group school day assemblies.
Viability and safety protocols for extra-curricular activities and some classes (i.e. Band, Choir, PE) based on guidance from state and local authorities.
All school libraries are closed until further notice.
Students refusing to wear a face covering will be required to comply with the requirement or be sent home.
Custodians will increase the frequency of cleaning of common touch surfaces including handrails, door handles, classrooms, hallways and traffic areas, using hospital-grade disinfectant.
Laptop/iPad cleaning should be done by students daily with a sanitizing wipe.
The District Office will communicate COVID-19 cases under the guidance of State and County Public Health.