Return to Learn Plan Updates:
To Okoboji Stakeholders: July 23, 2020
Over the past several weeks our district leaders have been meeting, planning, surveying, and working to create plans regarding the return to school this fall. Below are a few important highlights and an explanation of where we are in this process. Highlights of this information include:
- Iowa Department of Education Return to Learn Plan Submission
- Data and feedback from our survey of staff and parents
- Details on the three different instructional models we have created for possible implementation throughout the school year
- Next steps and timeline
Please understand that this has been, and continues to be, a very fluid situation that will continue to change and evolve as we learn more and receive further guidance. This means that the details and decisions outlined in this plan are and will remain subject to change.
Iowa Department of Education Return to Learn Plan Submission
Much has been reported regarding the requirement of each Iowa school district to submit a “Return to Learn” plan to the Iowa Department of Education. This process was more of a checklist of assurances each district had to acknowledge than an actual plan to be created. As a part of this plan, we had to assure the state that we would formulate a plan for required continuous distance learning in the event of a mandated school building closure. If that takes place, participation in learning activities, assignments, etc, is not allowed to be optional as it was last spring but must be mandatory.
Data and Feedback from our Survey of Staff and Parents
On June 29th a survey was sent to all Okoboji Schools staff requesting input and asking questions regarding our return to school this fall. On July 3rd a survey was sent to all parents via Infinite Campus Messenger. We received 82 responses to the staff survey and 606 responses to the parent survey. Below are some highlights:
- Over 93% of respondents reported they have quality internet access at home.
- 76% believed their internet connection was capable of supporting the learning needs of their students during online distance education. 7% felt theirs was inadequate while 16% were unsure.
- The most cited challenges to distance online distance learning were:
- Parents working outside the home (67%)
- Limited time during the day to help students with learning activities (37%)
- Difficulty in motivating children to complete learning activities (35%)
- When asked if they feel comfortable as of today with sending their kids back to school responses were:
- 56% Yes
- 16% No
- 28% Unsure
- When asked if they would feel comfortable sending kids to school on August 24th if conditions improved (without a definition of what that would mean), responses were:
- 84% Yes
- 3% No
- 13% Unsure
- 64% of respondents felt comfortable allowing their kids to participate in extracurricular activities while 12% did not and 24% were unsure.
- When asked about specific Personal Protective Equipment and risk mitigation strategies, the following trends emerged:
- Regarding student face coverings in classrooms, parents favored making their use optional over required by about 3:1 (405 to 137)
- Requiring face coverings in common areas such as hallways and on buses, the results were more even but still favored making these recommendations optional.
- The same held true when asked about staff face coverings with the majority saying they preferred this to be optional.
- Parents responded favorably to the idea of daily temperature scans for staff and students and also to the increased cleaning and sanitization efforts that are already planned.
- 13% of parents said they would prefer an online-only option to be offered if we go back to school face-to-face while another 28% said they were unsure.
- When asked their preferred structure if we were limited to 50% capacity, nearly 50% said they preferred for all grades PK-12 to be in a rotation so that all students would have access to face-to-face education rather than having older students completely online in order to spread younger students out throughout the buildings.
- Parents and staff also offered many questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions that have further guided and will continue to guide our planning.
Details on the different instructional models we have created for possible implementation throughout the school year
As we prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, we are preparing for instruction across different models. Our goal is traditional on-site instruction with safety precautions in place to limit the spread of illness. However, there may be times when, in order to provide greater social distancing, due to staff shortages, or in response to changes in the COVID-19 situation in our state or region, we need to move to a hybrid model which would cut down on the number of students in the building at one time. We have spent time fleshing out the details of these two models and will continue to do so in the weeks to come
Below is a chart that outlines key features of each model:
In the hybrid plan, students will be divided into two groups and the groups will attend on alternating days. The groups would be determined at all levels from PK-12 with an emphasis on keeping family units on the same schedule to make it easier for parents.
The potential hybrid plan schedule would be:
Online Only Option Available
We know families are in many different places in terms of their health and living situations and risk levels associated with COVID-19. We want all students to be able to access educational opportunities through Okoboji Schools regardless of family circumstances. In that effort, we are committed to offering an online-only option for students and families who prefer it. This option will utilize our Edgenuity online curriculum. Edgenuity is a platform we have used at the middle and high school levels for several years. This option will be available to all students K-12. To learn more about the Edgenuity program, see their website HERE.
Families are asked to communicate their choice to utilize this option to start the 2020-2021 school year through our online registration process. Families who choose this option will be asked to identify a “learning coach” for their child. This could be a parent or adult family member who will oversee their child’s progress and be the point of contact for communication with the school. Families that choose this option will be able to reevaluate their choice at the end of each semester and choose to continue in the online only model or rejoin the school in whichever instructional model we are using at that time.
Student and Staff Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Much discussion has focused on the use of personal protective equipment by students and staff. The use of face coverings has been shown to decrease the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission, especially in situations in which six feet of social distance cannot be maintained. The wearing of cloth or disposable face coverings, intended to reduce the spread of germs, is recommended for students throughout the school day. We are asking parents to plan to acquire appropriate face coverings as a part of school supply purchases this year and plan to send them to school with kids each day. There may be times and situations when social distancing is not possible and the wearing of face coverings will be expected. Each building will have a stock of disposable face coverings in the event that a student forgot theirs that day. Specific guidelines will be issued by each school building.
Next Steps for Families
As we all know, this is an unprecedented situation with no easy answers. It will continue to develop and change over the coming days, weeks, and months. Below are things parents should do now to prepare future possibilities.
- Read and analyze this information. Be sure you understand the decisions that have been communicated and the possible learning models that may be used.
- Consider your family and health situation and whether the online only option is a good fit for your situation. If interested, learn more about Edgenuity through the website link above.
- Consider the impacts of distance learning and hybrid models in terms of your family’s childcare circumstances.
- If, after reading this information, you have questions, please submit them at bit.ly/ocsd-rtl-help
- Complete the online registration process, which opens on July 29th. Registration information will be sent to parents via email. We are asking families to complete this registration process by August 14th.
Next Steps for the School District
Over the next two weeks, the school will hold team meetings with teacher leaders and other staff to continue to develop our plans. We have been told to expect further guidance with specifics regarding protocols when/if a student or staff member tests positive and other procedures from the Department of Education the week of August 3rd. We have a work session planned for July 29th to continue to engage our school board members in this process. We plan to determine which instructional model we will be using at the start of the school year and communicate that decision between August 3rd and 10th.