Students, including in the Oelwein area communities, will be required to “return to learn” in the fall under the Iowa compulsory attendance guidelines, although returning may be done online. Online-only learning registration begins July 1.
Hybrid at-home/at-school learning registration will start July 27.
The Oelwein School District Blended Learning Task Force — consisting of principals, curriculum coordinators and building and program representatives as well as education agency reps — has developed three main options for returning to learn in response to protocols and results of family surveys in recent months.
Oelwein Superintendent Josh Ehn presented core elements of the draft of the Oelwein School District’s Return to Learn plan in a video on YouTube this week.
Option one is a hybrid learning model, a blend of learning at school and at home, “the most traditional option,” Ehn said. Blended learning be offered through a learning management system such as Canvas, Google Classroom and Seesaw.
Registration for this option will open July 27, as in the past, through Infinite Campus, which can be accessed through the district’s website under the “Parent” drop-down menu.
The schedule plan to address hybrid learning will be to split students into two cohorts, A and B.
Under this model, one cohort will attend Monday and Thursday, with digital learning the other three days, and the other will attend Tuesday and Friday, with digital learning the other days. Wednesday will be used for teacher planning and to deep clean school buildings.
“Family units will be given priority in terms of childcare and also to assist in terms of transportation and scheduling,” Ehn says in the presentation.
“We are actively working to provide childcare options for school aged children in a safe and nurturing environment,” the RTL report draft adds.
If there is a holiday any day, typically a Monday or Friday, the Wednesday schedule block will be removed and the week shifted as needed.
“We are anticipating a capacity limit of 50 in any given space,” Ehn said. “Within the capacity of our physical space and the furniture we have, we’re going to do our very best to keep the kids separated.”
“What we really want is for students to return to school,” Ehn said. “However we know there may be a point in time where we are asked to reduce the number of students in our attendance centers at any one given time. Under a learn at home model the district will be able to provide learning at home if there’s a need to quarantine, such as a community, school, class, or individual students.”
“For those of you who don’t feel comfortable sending your kid back to school in the fall or maybe you have underlying health conditions or are ready to provide a different approach to education, we are happy to present Oelwein Online, O2,” Ehn said.
Oelwein Online learning will be provided in partnership with the Edgenuity platform — for K-12 online and blended learning — in partnership with school district resources “to ensure student success” — the written plan requires weekly mentor meetings. Special registration will be required, and will be open from July 1-24.
“Students must be able to engage an online learning platform, be able to communicate readily with teachers, be willing to meet weekly with a mentor, and engage in working independently,” Ehn said.
As to access, students will be provided in a district-issued laptop or tablet which can support them if the family has home internet. For those without it, the district has a plan to work with local providers and overcome obstacles, the plan says. The district is also working to strengthen its WiFi signal for better outdoor internet access, such as from parking lots.
“We hope to officially launch a specific website to address these concerns and issues in the coming days and officially open up registration online beginning July 1,” Ehn said in the June 24 video.
Oelwein Schools will be launching the OCSD Homeschool Assistance Program. The district will provide technology, curriculum resources and extracurricular activities, coordination with family group experiences and participation in state testing, as well as access to Northeast Iowa Community College resources, an OCSD diploma and district-cost driver’s education.
Contact the district for details, 319-283-1982.
Oelwein will continue to provide access for all High School students — including online and homeschooled — to enroll in courses with NICC, APEX/AP courses, the REC program, and the Knight Academy for those students that qualify, the plan says.
Traditional homeschooling remains an option if going full-time with support of a certified teacher (competent private instruction) or full-time with or without support of a certified teacher (independent private instruction), according to Iowa Department of Education.
“As a parent like me, you’re probably wondering, ‘will my child be required to wear a mask?’” Ehn said.
“We’re not planning to require any personal protective equipment on our students at this point, but we’re not going to prevent it either,” he said. “If you choose to send your child to school wearing a mask or gloves, we’ll support your decision.”
Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be in every classroom.
“We are anticipating more protocols coming from the state such as temperature taking, sick bays, and specific quarantine policies to be developed in coming weeks,” Ehn said.
As to transit and bussing, “We’re still waiting for guidance from the Iowa Department of Education on what’s allowable for the capacity of students on a bus,” Ehn said.
The district will prohibit use of communal supplies in classrooms such as common buckets of scissors, pencils and crayons. Last year’s supplies can be reused.
“We’re also creating school supply lists,” being released soon as of June 24, “that will be more mobile to allow a child to take school supplies home if need be,” Ehn said.
General updates on procedure, educational delivery and health and safety will be communicated regularly, the plan states. The district will communicate urgent updates through text messaging and Infinite Campus. Ehn says in the presentation that procedural or policy updates will be done on Facebook and OelweinSchools.com. Student emails will also be used.
Any family meetings will be scheduled virtually, such as through emails and phone calls, including individual education plan meetings.
The district will place limits on building access to eliminate any potential contamination.
“We’re excited that on Aug. 20, 2020 we get to start school again,” Ehn said. “Last time we saw you kids was March 12 and we’re excited and ready to welcome them back with open arms,” metaphorically. “Go Huskies!”
More state guidance on the protocols necessary to return to school face-to-face in school buildings is anticipated in the next couple of weeks. The district plans an update then, Ehn said.
• All staff will be trained on hazard mitigation, health and safety in August. All future professional development for staff will be delivered in a blended learning environment and will be warehoused the district’s Campus Website for posterity. Specific courses will cover teacher orientation, mentoring, standards-referenced grading, blended learning, suicide prevention, health and safety protocols and social-emotional and behavioral health related to COVID-19.
• The district will support identified students with chronic health conditions that place them at risk. It will support protective measures such as frequent handwashing, cough/sneeze etiquette, not touching their face, and will attempt to have students remain six feet apart.
It will conduct environmental surface cleaning especially if meetings occur on school grounds.
•Staff will continue to monitor social-emotional and behavioral health needs of families within the first weeks of the school year. Teachers and staff will keep a connection log to track progress and family connections. Results will be evaluated by each Building Leadership Team.
The district Student Services Team will evaluate social-emotional and behavioral health needs and provide support where needed, and Positive Behavior Intervention System building-level teams will work to build camaraderie and help teach COVID-19 related expectations.
•Blended Learning Task Force Committee Members are Ehn; principals Tim Hadley (high school), Mary Beth Steggall (middle school), Justin McGuinness (elementary); instructional coaches Kristi Druvenga, Deb Kaeppel and Cari Sherrets; and building or program reps Jessica Russell for Little Husky Learning Center, Mindy Steinlage for special ed, Jason Yessak for Wings Park, Terry Rex and Michelle Gearhart for the Middle School, and Gary Goeller and Justin Villont for the High School; plus two Keystone Area Education Agency reps, Greg Halsor and Sarah Lehmann.
•Public comments on the plan can be made until Tuesday, June 30, at OelweinSchools.com, www.oelweinschools.com/public-release-of-return-to-learn-plan/, or directly, https://forms.gle/7HLDYe8qw2Pzzaec6.