Cedar Rapids schools will provide voluntary learning opportunities for students during extended school closure

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Superintendent Noreen Bush at a Linn County Public Health press conference on Monday, April 6. — video still

Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) will be offering voluntary continuous learning for its students during the extended school closure, Superintendent Noreen Bush announced on Monday.

On April 2, Gov. Kim Reynolds extended school closures through April 30. Reynolds has not ordered schools to close for the remainder of the school year.

School districts have to submit their plan to the Department of Education by Friday, April 10 and receive approval before starting it on Monday, April 13, Bush said during Linn County Public Health’s press conference.

There are three options a school district can choose during the extended closure: no continuous learning, voluntary continuous learning and required continuous learning. Under no continuous learning, schools are required to make up the lost time.

The difference between voluntary and required continuous learning is whether or not students are required to attend and complete the coursework. Under either option of continuous learning, instruction hours will be forgiven by the Department of Education.

“There’s additional concerns in regards to required learning for many school districts for an equity and access point of view,” Bush said. “From Cedar Rapids Community School District point of view, it would be guaranteeing that all 17,000 of our children have the same access and the same equity lens to the learning that’s being provided to them.”

“Under voluntary, we can still provide all sorts of opportunities for students. … What the difference is, is we wouldn’t require attendance, and we wouldn’t require grades. We could provide feedback, we can provide continuous learning, but it provides an opportunity for students to continue on their path without penalizing them for attendance.”

Voluntary continuous learning does not mean it has to be online, Bush said. CRCSD will “include a variety of options.”

“It can be packets of work. It can be teleconferencing with students and providing feedback and support and assignments,” Bush said. “So Cedar Rapids is going to try and provide a continuum of options for families. We currently have some options, but we will be notching it up a little bit and making it more rigorous.”

Bush said the district is also looking into the possibility of starting the next school year earlier “to get that foundational learning of anything that was missed.”

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