The Decorah Community School District is providing an update regarding the current state of their plan to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

At the end of June, they communicated that a final determination about the reopening plan would be made by Monday, Aug.10. A July 30 virtual community forum will explain more details.

Superintendent Mark Lane shared, “We will continue to remain flexible over the next few weeks, but I feel it is important to get information out today, so people have time to plan for the future, provide feedback, and ask questions.”

Lane added, “Throughout June, our different Return to Learn planning teams spent many hours developing viable plans for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Friday, July 17, Governor Reynolds issued a new Public Health Proclamation which changed guidance and requirements regarding those plans. We have quickly pivoted, made some adjustments, and today I want to share some basic information about what I will be recommending to our Board of Directors. Currently, I expect for our Board of Directors to meet for a special meeting Monday, Aug. 3 in order to approve our reopening plan.” Given the current state of COVID-19 risk in the area, Decorah schools are planning a tiered reopening of schools. The recommendation to the board will be to approve starting the year in a Hybrid Learning Model, with an option to transition to on-site learning if the data shows a decrease in the area’s positive COVID-19 cases. #70 The July 17, 2020 proclamation linked above includes the following: So long as any remote learning is provided in accordance with a compliant Return-toLearn plan and is authorized in this section or is not the primary method of instruction (because at least half of the school district's instruction is provided in-person during any two-week period), any instructional time provided by remote learning shall count towards the hours and days requirements of Iowa law as provided for by 2020 Iowa Acts Chapter 1107 (Senate File 2310), section 9. Based on this guidance a Hybrid Learning Model has been developed allowing students to receive at least half their instruction in-person each two-week period.

 

Tier One Approach

Details of the Tier One approach are listed as follows:

Tier One: Monday, Aug. 24 through Friday, Sept. 25 Decorah Community School District will begin the 2020-2021 school year in a Hybrid Learning Model. Students will attend school for on-site learning for at least half of their instruction during any two-week period. Students will be on-site either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, and alternating Wednesdays, and will participate in remote continuous learning during any weekday they are not scheduled to be on-site.

Hybrid Learning Model Basics

* Preschool through 8th grade students will be divided into two groups, Red Group and Blue Group. Red Group will attend on-site learning Monday and Tuesday each week, and alternating Wednesdays. Blue Group will attend on-site learning Thursday and Friday each week, and alternating Wednesdays. Students will engage in remote continuous learning any weekday they are not on-site.

* 9th and 10th grade students will attend on-site learning Monday and Tuesday each week, and alternating Wednesdays. 11th and 12th grade students will attend onsite learning Thursday and Friday each week, and alternating Wednesdays. Students will engage in remote continuous learning any weekday they are not onsite.

* Red and Blue Group assignments will be purposefully built to keep families together. Final assignments will be communicated after registration is completed.

* Upon boarding a school bus or entering a school building each day, all staff and students will be required to wear a face covering.

* The district will strive to facilitate outdoor learning opportunities, and students and staff will be allowed to remove face coverings if social distancing practices are followed.

* Face coverings will be removed during breakfast and lunch.

* All staff and students will be asked to conduct a health assessment prior to reporting to their assigned district building. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms must stay home: Fever or chills, Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Fatigue, Muscle or body aches, Headache, New loss of taste or smell, Sore throat, Congestion or runny nose, Nausea or vomiting, Diarrhea (Note: This list does not include all possible symptoms).

Rationale

The primary rationale for recommending hybrid learning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year is as follows:

* Over the past two to three weeks, Winneshiek County has experienced the highest seven-day positive case rolling averages during any time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district feels it is irresponsible to bring almost 1,900 students and staff together each school day until a decrease in our average daily positive cases occurs.

* Entering the year in a hybrid model allows for purposeful teaching in smaller group settings for all of the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies. It will take time and repeated practice for employees and students to learn and consistently carry out new routines and behaviors. Learning in the hybrid setting will enable everyone to be better prepared to maintain best-practices when a return to full onsite learning is appropriate.

* It is likely that increased levels of family travel will occur between now and Labor Day Weekend. Once past this travel season, people may be more consistent in their application of personal COVID-19 reduction strategies which will likely impact local rates of positive cases. If community and state COVID-19 conditions allow, the district will consider transitioning to an On-site Learning Model beginning Monday, Sept. 28. They will work collaboratively with Winneshiek County Public Health to understand the current context as they make the determination if moving to full on-site learning is appropriate.

 

Tier Two

When the transition to Tier Two is appropriate, all preschool through 12th grade students will attend on-site learning every day. Appropriate social distancing, personal hygiene, student cohorting, face coverings, and other risk mitigation strategies and procedures will be in place to maximize student and staff safety.

Community Forum Juy 30

A virtual community forum will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 30, during which further details of the plan will be shared and questions will be answered. A link will be available on the district homepage the day of the event. Attendance will be capped as allowed by the district’s Zoom account limit. The forum will be recorded and posted to YouTube for later viewing. Attendance to the virtual forum will be monitored, and preference will be given to parents/guardians of Decorah Community School District students.

No in-person registration

2020-2021 School Registration Decorah Community School District will NOT have in-person registration this year; all forms will be available and completed online through eRegistration. The district will be opening eRegistration by or before Aug. 3, and will be sharing more detailed information on the update process in the near future. This information will be important to read before completing eRegistration and updating student and family data in PowerSchool. Student-athlete annual physical forms will still need to be dropped off at the buildings per the Iowa Department of Education; more information will follow.

At this time, the school buildings remain closed to guests and visitors. Anyone who is unable to complete eRegistration from home due to technical difficulties can make an appointment with the building Administrative Assistants for Aug. 6 or 7. More information will be shared about scheduling these appointments next week. Fall Sports and Activities State associations which sponsor extracurricular activities continue to develop guidance for school districts. Those associations include the Iowa High School Athletic Union, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, and the Iowa High School Music Association. Each association has it's own website for guidance.

Finally, Superintendent Lane shared the following: “I feel confident in saying I know staff, students, and parents want more concrete information than I am providing today. Please know I am in that same position. For example, just today (July 24), as I am finalizing this message, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new and updated guidance to schools. It will now take time to digest this new information and to incorporate the guidance into our plans. I also know there are people who will disagree with the recommendations I plan to make to our Board of Directors, and that is all right. There is no decision in this current environment that can make everyone happy, because unfortunately, many decisions feel like lose-lose propositions. I will continue to operate under the priorities we first communicated in our logic model created back in April: student learning and well-being, staff capacity to carry out the work, equity across all student groups, developmentally appropriate and quality student opportunities, and feasibility of deployment.”

Lane continued, “The first two priorities mean the long-term health and safety of our students and staff are the most critical consideration for every decision we make, and we will always err on the side of being conservative in our approach because the cost of doing too much is more acceptable than the cost of doing too little. I look forward to providing more detail about our plan in the virtual forum next Thursday evening. Thank your for your support of Decorah Schools."