Cedar Rapids schools to start on Sept. 21, with majority of middle and high school students online

Franklin Middle School after the Aug. 10 derecho — photo from Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Facebook page

Cedar Rapids students will start the school year nearly a month later than what was originally anticipated. Late Wednesday night, the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) announced Sept. 21 as the new first day of school.

Elementary school students will have either in-person or online learning, based on what families chose earlier this month as part of the Return to Learn plan. Middle school and High school students (except for Metro High School) will begin the school year online even if families chose the in-person option.

The district’s Board of Education was scheduled to discuss pushing the start date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31 at a meeting earlier this month. The week delay was needed for a number of COVID-19-related reasons. Superintendent Noreen Bush outlined these reasons in an email to families in early August.

That meeting, which was scheduled for Aug. 10, was canceled due to the derecho that swept through the state earlier in the day and left thousands without power. Since all of the district’s buildings had some type of damage, the district informed families that the school year will be delayed longer than initially planned.

At the time, it was unknown when school would start and what the start of the school year would look like since Gov. Kim Reynolds expected districts to prioritize in-person learning. A little over a week after the derecho hit, Reynolds said 14 school districts — including CRCSD — that had damage to their buildings caused by the derecho could start the school year online.

“The proclamation will permit those districts whose school buildings have been damaged by the derecho to move to primarily remote learning while they repair their buildings and for students and teachers to return safely,” Reynolds said during the Aug. 20 press conference.

In Wednesday’s email to families, Bush said the district was approved for a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education to begin the school year online due to derecho damage.

While the school year is starting a month later than anticipated, Bush said the waiver approval allows the district to maintain the current school calendar and end the school year on June 1, 2021.

Bush said that 18 buildings are available to house elementary school in-person learning, special education, vulnerable populations and students who do not have internet access. The other buildings will be phased in for in-person learning as they are approved.

In order for buildings to be used for in-person instruction, they have to be accessible and safe for at least 75 percent capacity, Bush said. In the email, Bush outlined what buildings will be accessible by Sept. 14 for in-person instruction “internet hub” stations.

Because many families lost power and internet after the derecho, CRCSD is creating the internet hubs to give access to students who might not have it. The district will also provide hot-spots for qualifying students and families based on information collected in June.

Six buildings could be at 75 percent capacity by Nov. 16 with another six possible able to be used by Jan. 1, 2021.

The district decided to prioritize in-person learning for elementary school students due to their developmental needs and that majority of the elementary school buildings had less damage than middle and high school buildings. Bush also said that middle and high schools students are more prepared for online learning than the younger students.

Students at the following schools will start their year with online learning:

• Harding Middle School
• Taft Middle School
• Franklin Middles School
• Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy Middle School
• McKinley STEAM Academy
• Wilson Middle School
• Jefferson High School
• Kennedy High School
• Washington High School

One of the more dramatic images from the August 10th derecho was a tree limb that made its way into a Pierce Elementary…

Posted by Cedar Rapids Community School District on Thursday, August 20, 2020

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