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Forest City School District Board of Education Approves Return To Learn Plans

posted Aug 7, 2020, 6:02 AM by Kristin Heidemann

Forest City School District Board of Education Approves Return To Learn Plans

District plans to start the school year with “Traditional Hybrid” model 

FOREST CITY, August 7, 2020  — The Forest City Community School District announces 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.