Cedar Rapids families have until Wednesday to decide whether their students will start the upcoming school year online or in person.
Families were sent the final version of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s (CRCSD) Return to Learn plan on Friday. The plan includes information about the options for students in elementary, middle and high school, as well as information on mitigation efforts the district is implementing in schools. The final version of the plan is largely unchanged from what was presented at the Board of Education’s meeting on July 28.
As part of CRCSD’s plan, elementary school families can choose in-person or virtual instruction. Families with a middle school student can choose from in-person, virtual learning or a longer virtual option with the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy.
Families with a high school student can choose from a hybrid model that combines online learning with in-person instruction, all virtual instruction or the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy.
Students who return to school later this month will be required to wear face coverings in school and on the bus, sanitize their hands when they enter a school building and practice social distancing. There will be changes to how meals are served, increased sanitation and lower class sizes.
In the elementary school model, all pre-K to fifth-grade students who return to in-person instruction will have a homeroom teacher. Each homeroom cohort will remain the same to limit contact between students. Arrival and dismissal times will be designed for minimal contact, according to the plan.
There will be about 20 students per class, but district officials shared last week they would like to get then down to 12 to 15 students.
The district is working on ways to minimize contact between specials teachers and students. Teachers of special subjects, such as music or physical education, will interact with one-third of the students every six weeks instead of constantly rotating between classes in order to minimize contact.
Students in middle school who return to in-person instruction will be assigned an advisory teacher. Each advisory cohort will remain the same with teachers rotating but the students staying in the same group. There would be a component of virtual instruction so teachers won’t be responsible for teaching subjects they aren’t familiar with.
Building leaders and teachers will design teacher rotations based on staff feedback and building resources. At a Board of Education meeting last week, Adam Zimmermann, the district’s executive director of middle schools, said some schools are looking at a three-week rotation while others are looking at a six-week rotation.
There will be about 20 students in each advisory cohort.
High school students returning to school will have a combination of in-person and virtual instruction. The hybrid model will split students into two cohorts by the first letter of their last name. Students will be in class for two or three days a week and have online learning for the remaining weekdays.
The school day will follow a block schedule with an “A” week and a “B” week. This means students will be taking the same three or four classes for one week before switching to different classes the next week. Half the students would have in-person classes three days a week during an “A” week, with two days of in-person classes during the “B” week. The other half of the student body would follow the opposite schedule.
Staff will teach six periods over two days with three block periods per day. There will be a prep period for teachers every day. As in the other levels, there will be no more than 20 students in a class.
Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said in a statement to Little Village that the only potential change the district is exploring is instead of all high school students coming to school for a half day each Friday, the district would “identify a full Friday out of every two weeks for each cohort of students so HS students attend school three days one week and two days the next for our in-person model.”
“This is the only anticipated potential change at this time, but we also know this situation is fluid and we will continue to be flexible when needed,” Kooiker said.
The hybrid model for high schools does meet Gov. Kim Reynolds’ most recent guidance, CRCSD spokesperson Colleen Scholer told Little Village in an email on Monday. The governor announced positivity rate guidance last week outlining when schools should move to online instruction.
According to the Iowa Department of Health and Iowa Department of Education:
• None to minimal community transmission (0 to 5 percent positivity): On-site learning following guidance and hybrid learning as necessary based on parent preference and student quarantine
• Minimal to moderate community transmission (6 to 14 percent positivity): On-site learning following guidance and hybrid learning as necessary based on parent preference and student quarantine
• Substantial controlled community transmission (15 to 20 percent positivity and 10 percent absenteeism among students): Hybrid learning as necessary based on parent preference and student quarantine. Remote learning for an entire school building or district for up to 14 days can be requested.
• Substantial uncontrolled community transmission (more than 20 percent): Remote learning for an entire school building or district for up to 14 days can be requested.
The most recent guidance comes about two weeks after Reynolds ordered districts to prioritize in-person learning for the upcoming school year.
CRCSD’s virtual learning is more structured than the spring’s continuous learning model, according to the plan. Attendance will be required at all levels. The Return to Learn plan outlines commitments and responsibilities for students, parents and teachers.
CRCSD is collecting responses from families about their decision for the upcoming school year through an online form. The district has provided a chart and a FAQ document in an effort to help families as they’re deciding between in-person and virtual learning.
The school year is scheduled to start on Aug. 24.