Districts lay out some “Return to Learn” plans

State teacher’s union calls lack of a face mask mandate “obscene”.


DONNELLSON – Area school officials won’t be requiring students or staff to wear masks at the start of the fall school year, but they will be taking additional safety measures as Iowa schools look to reopen.

Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier released a video today talking about what the district may look like going into the fall in dealing with the coronavirus, but said things are still very preliminary and a lot of details still need hashed out.

Central Lee’s plan can be found at the following link: https://sites.google.com/centrallee.org/central-lee-covid-19/return-to-learn/continuous-learning

Some schools in Iowa are already announcing that masks will be required when school opens in the fall, but Iowa Department of Education guidelines do not recommend requiring masks to be worn.

For example, Iowa City has made the decision to require all staff and students to wear masks at the start of the school year.

As of July 1, Central Lee and Fort Madison school officials are letting parents make that decision.

As part of the face-to-face learning options, personal protective equipment including face masks or face guards will not be required, but will be allowed and encouraged during transition time and while in hallways, as part of Central Lee’s plan.

Staff there will also be temping students and staff as they enter district buildings or buses. Any students or staff with a temperature of 100.3 or above will be sent home immediately.

The district is also planning to alter schedules to reduce traffic flow in the hallways as well as the Multi Purpose Room to allow students to space out while eating. Some students will be allowed to eat in classrooms or other designated areas to encourage social distancing.

All parent nights and school assemblies are suspended temporarily with the district hoping to begin those again later in the school year.

The state only required for their July 1 deadline on the Return to Learn programs, that state districts complete an assurance checklist where administrators indicate their is a plan in place to offer continuous learning, a hybrid model for educational services, and on-site educational services. However, the checklist did not require the districts to elaborate on the plans, but only check Yes or No to having a plan.

Crozier said he wanted to provide as much additional information as possible, knowing that things could change depending on a number of factors.

“The state told us we should be posting this online,” Crozier said Wednesday.

“We decided to go a little further and give a little more detail and that’s what people need to know. We’ll release more information as the summer goes on.”

Crozier said state schools are dealing with a lot of mitigation strategies and have received guidance from the state.

The Iowa Department of Education released guidance on June 25 that included the following:
• staff and students who are ill should stay home.
• reinforce washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• It is not recommended to require face coverings for staff and students.
• Allow personal use of cloth face coverings by staff and students.
• Have a framework for routine cleaning practices at facilities including high touch surface areas, concession stands, health officers and busses following CDC guidelines and state and federal sanitation regulations.

Fort Madison Community School District has not released a full plan as the district’s Return to Learn leadership teams will continue to meet over the summer to process the guidance. The district is also going to be asking families to complete a “Back to Learning” survey that will be posted on the district’s website by mid-July.

FMSCD Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said at this time the state is recommending reopening face to face for the fall and masks will be allowed, but not required. She, too, said things are changing very rapidly with school still seven weeks away.

“We are aware that some families may not feel comfortable in face-to-face learning, and we, as a district, are prepared to work with individual families to provide learning for all students,” she said.

Slater said staff and student temperatures will not be taken upon entry.

“The reopening guidance states the “… Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that schools screen students and staff upon entering the building,” she said.

Both Crozier and Slater said in the event the districts do utilize online learning, all instruction would be with required attendance, and required and graded assignments.

Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross said she is waiting on guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health to use in collaborative efforts with the county’s school districts.

“LCHD will gladly collaborate with the school districts in Lee County in regards to their health and safety planning for their Return to Learn plans upon request,” Ross wrote in an email Wednesday.

“We encourage the school planning and leadership teams to reach out to our department and discuss their plans for how they will implement all of the Health and Safety Requirements according to the Reopening Guidance for Schools document  https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2020-06-25_ReopeningGuidanceforSchools.pdfat created in partnership with Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Department of Public Health.”

On June 27, a spokesperson for the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s teacher’s union called the lack of a face mask mandate for schools “obscene”.

In a tweet posted on June 27, ISEA President Mike Beranek posted “The ISEA believes a school district reopening model must ensure the health and safety (of) students and staff and prioritize long-term strategies on student learning and educational equities.”

“It’s a gamble and obscene that the governors and the Department of Education are gambling on the health and safety of our students, our staff and school employees,” Jean Hessburg, the ISEA spokesperson told the Register.
“This virus has demonstrated that it knows no bounds and students can bring the virus home to families and ravage a family.”

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