CRCSD decides on hybrid plan for high schools and electronic devices for all

Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

Cedar Rapids students will all receive electronic devices for the upcoming school year, Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) officials shared during the district’s Return to Learn town hall on Monday morning.

Nearly 100 people tuned in through Zoom, and some attended in-person, to hear more about what CRCSD is planning for the fall. District officials also shared a hybrid plan where high school students have in-person instruction two days a week, and details on mask enforcement.

The district is currently evaluating three potential options for the upcoming school year: in-person, online and a hybrid model of classroom and online instruction. A final decision is expected to be made later this month.

Some of the information shared on Monday was a repeat of what the district’s Board of Education heard last week, including how students will be required to wear face masks or face shields in classrooms and on the bus, smaller class sizes and serving meals in classrooms.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District is taking a number of measures to help maintain social distancing when school resumes on Aug. 24. — Return to Learn town hall presentation

In the elementary school model draft, all Pre-K to fifth grade students who return to in-person instruction would have a homeroom teacher. Each homeroom cohort would remain the same to limit contact between students. Specials teachers would rotate to the cohort for art, music and gym. There will also be a virtual option for students whose parents are not comfortable with in-person.

Students in middle school who return to in-person instruction would be assigned an advisory teacher. Each advisory cohort would remain the same for at least three weeks, after which time teachers can rotate but the students will remain 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.

New information shared on Monday included a draft of what high school students can expect. High school students who return to in-person instruction will be split into two cohorts by the first letter of their last name, said Cynthia Phillips, the district’s executive director of high schools.

Students will attend class in person two days a week and have online learning for the remaining three days. Students will be able to take three or four classes per day, with classes being up to 90 minutes long. The school day will follow a block schedule.

“This proposal is flexible,” Phillips said. “It can go completely online all the way to fully back in school at 100 percent. That’s really what we looked at is how do we maintain flexibility and still have access to all courses and needs that students and staff have at the high school level.”

Phillips said that the current high school plan does meet Gov. Kim Reynolds’ most recent public health proclamation. Reynolds signed a proclamation last week that requires school districts to “prioritize in-person learning.”

“Schools must prioritize in-person learning for core academic subjects, including science, math, reading and social studies,” Reynolds said last Friday. “The Legislature has made it clear that most schools cannot provide more than half of their instruction to any student through remote learning unless I authorize remote learning in a proclamation.”

Phillips said the district’s high school plan “puts students in 90 minutes of a class for the week versus the 180 minutes, which was the max class number for a week.” A sample schedule also showed that core classes would occur on the days students are in class.

“We are just right at meeting that 50 percent guidance,” Phillips added.

A sample high school schedule that was shared during the district’s Return to Learn town hall on July 21.

All CRCSD students will be issued an electronic device, said Craig Barnum, executive director of digital literacy and information technology. High school students were all issued a Chromebook last fall, which will continue. Incoming ninth graders will receive their device at the start of the school year.

Barnum said the district was planning to issue Chromebooks to middle school students this year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That process will continue and all middle school students will receive a Chromebook in August.

The district had to expedite its technology plan for elementary school students due to the pandemic. Come fall, all elementary school students will have a device issued to them. Pre-K and kindergarten students will receive an iPad. First through fifth graders will receive Chromebooks.

“That will help our students that choose to go virtual or if there happens to be another closure,” Barnum said.

There are internet hotspots available for families at all school levels who do not have high-speed internet at home.

Regarding the requirement that all students wear face masks, Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said it will be like any other expectation in school.

“Our plan is to bring that protocol to the school board so it can be consistent across the system, and everybody knows — all parents know, all students know, all staff know,” Kooiker said. “Our expectation is for health and safety reasons that masks and/or face shields are worn by everyone for safety reasons, and if that does not happen, there will be consequences that apply.”

The district is holding four more town halls this week to provide information, answer questions and get feedback. All sessions can be accessed through Zoom or attended in-person.

• July 22 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Harding Middle School

• July 23 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Jefferson High School

For the 11 a.m. session, there will be French and Swahili interpreters available. Spanish interpreters will be available for the 6 p.m. session.

The district will communicate to families by the end of July, or Aug. 1 at the latest, what Return to Learn plan will be implemented. If the district chooses in-person instruction, students will still have the option to do virtual instruction, regardless of if they’re in elementary, middle or high school.

Once a decision is announced, families will have until Aug. 5 to indicate if they will send their students to face-to-face instruction or virtual, which will help with staffing plans. Students will have to commit to the option they select for at least a semester.

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