BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON, IOWA — The Central Lee Community School District will implement a new pod system for students in grades 3-6 at the start of the upcoming school year.
Students engaging in face-to-face instruction in these grades will attend class in small groups at various locations in Donnellson, Argyle, and Montrose. Classes will take place in church classrooms, at community centers and in other spaces hosted by local community organizations.
The system will allow the district to better space out PK-2 students in its elementary school while also reducing capacity at the middle school, providing more space for students in grades 7-8. Students will still take part in physical education, music, art, lunch and recess.
“Our team wanted to find a way to preserve face-to-face instruction while also knowing we would have to respond to a positive case of COVID-19 during the school year,” said Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier. “We looked at the daycare model as a way of possibly finding success.”
Crozier said the pod system will also allow a creative way to keep everyone safe.
“We believe this pod system will give us the ability to keep students and staff safe and healthy throughout our district,” Crozier said.
“It also allows us to resume with in-person teaching and learning, which is incredibly important for our students and families. This is a creative way to maintain safety as we work toward getting back to normal here in Central Lee.”
The pod system enables the district to isolate groups of students and minimize exposure to the entire school environment. If one pod has a diagnosed case of COVID-19, for example, the district would transition the students in that pod to a remote learning format for a brief period. Meanwhile, students in the other pods would be able to continue with in-person learning.
The pod system also allows the district to protect teachers and staff members who may be at a higher risk if infected with COVID-19. Additionally, the district will be able to quickly return students in grades 3-6 to a normal schedule if conditions allow for it later in the school year.
Crozier said that would probably be a phased-in approached.
“We still need to determine our metrics for moving classrooms back into the building. We will likely do this one pod at a time to ensure we can manage more students in our building during the transition,” he said.
“If we have success early on with our PK-2 students, I can imagine bringing 3rd grade students back fairly soon in September.
The district is also in the midst of a $13 million construction project and the pod system would help alleviate some issues there as well, but Crozier said safety in the paramount concern.
“The construction is a reason this makes sense now as well, but far from the main reason. Once the construction is complete in early 2021, we will have more square footage to help with social distancing.”
Costs of using the other facilities is negligible, but Crozier said the district doesn’t want anyone to incur additional expenses due to the district’s use. He said some groups have allowed the district to use the space rent free and others require basic utility reimbursement.
Central Lee is continuing to work out the details of the pod system, including how transportation to the various locations will be managed. The district will provide more information to families as these plans take shape.
To access information and updates on Central Lee’s school reopening plans, visit https://bit.ly/CLReturntoLe