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Face masks, temp checks and a new way of serving lunch: More details about reopening schools in Iowa City

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Iowa City Community School District — Adam Burke/Little Village

Interim Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Matt Degner and members of the district’s Return to Learn Plan team offered more details on how schools will reopen in the fall, during the ICCSD Board of Directors’ special meeting this week. The biggest decisions regarding reopening, however, have not yet been made.

The district will provide a minimum of two face coverings to students, teachers and all staff members at the beginning of the school year, and will continue to provide PPE for teachers and staff throughout the year. Degner acknowledged that two face coverings won’t be enough for an entire year, but said it’s a starting point. Students will also be encouraged to bring in face coverings from home.

The district will conduct daily health screenings and temperature checks for teachers and staff. The district wants students to be checked before arriving at school.

“We’re going to ask families to perform a daily health screening temperature check at home,” Degner said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Some students, teachers and staff will also be given training in how to clean in a way that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and be asked to help clean some high-traffic areas and frequently touched surfaces at schools. The district will supply the cleaning supplies, Degner said.

Visitors, even those who would normally help with school functions as volunteers, won’t be permitted in buildings. Volunteers also won’t be permitted to serve “as sponsors/coaches of programs/activities” in an attempt to limit the exposure of students, teachers and staff to potential sources of COVID-19 infection, according to the written summary of the plan presented during the meeting.

For the same reasons, there will be no out-of-state school-sponsored trips for students, teachers or staff.

School lunches will change: no more self-serve options, and all meals will be served packaged with disposable utensils. Grab-and-go lunches will be available for students taking online classes. At schools, students will be able to eat lunches in classrooms and common areas in addition to the lunchroom in order to facilitate social distancing.

Desks will be arranged in classrooms to allow for as much social distancing as possible. But Degner said it was important for the district to be transparent about the fact that achieving the necessary six feet of separation won’t be possible in most classrooms or on school buses.

The district also presented a written outline of when it would have to have a class, school or all its schools stop in-person instruction and move to online continuous learning due to the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Elementary Classroom Transition to Continuous Learning
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in an elementary classroom, students and staff in the class(es) must transition to the Continuous Online Learning model for 14 calendar days after their last exposure to the confirmed exposure case. This date shall be set by the District. Siblings and/or other students or staff living in the same household as the specific individual(s) testing positive are required to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days.

Junior High and High School Student Transition to Continuous Learning
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in a junior high or high school classroom, students and staff sitting within 6 feet of the individual testing positive, in each of the positive testing individual’s class periods must transition to the Continuous Online Learning model after their last exposure to the confirmed exposure case. This date shall be set by the District. Siblings and/or other students or staff living in the same household as the specific individual(s) testing positive are required to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days.

School Bus Riders (or Transportation Vehicle Riders) Transition to Continuous Learning
If a student or staff member riding a District school bus or in a District vehicle tests positive for COVID-19, students and staff sitting within 6 feet of the individual testing positive must transition to the Continuous Online Learning model for 14 calendar days after their last exposure to the confirmed exposure case. This date shall be set by the District. Siblings and/or other students or staff living in the same household as the specific individual(s) testing positive are required to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days.

Students Participating in Co-curricular or Extra-curricular Activities
If a student or staff member participating in or sponsoring a co-curricular/extra-curricular activity tests positive for COVID-19, students and staff in the activity / sport must transition to the Continuous Online Learning model for 14 calendar days after their last exposure to the confirmed exposure case. This date shall be set by the District. Siblings and/or other students or staff living in the same household as the specific individual(s) testing positive are required to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days.

A school will transition to all online classes for 14 calendar days if three or more positive cases in different classrooms are reported during an overlapping period. All schools in the district will switch to online classes only for 14 days if three schools have to during an overlapping period.

Most of the other decisions regarding reopening of schools depend heavily on which model of instruction the district decides on. During this week’s meeting, board members seemed most interested in a model that would have students in Pre-K through Grade 4, or possibly Pre-K through Grade 3, attend classes in person, while older students only attend in-person classes on alternating days, in groups based on the first letter of the students’ last names. On the days they are not attending in-person classes, students will have asynchronous instruction online. This is known as the A/B model.

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Board members discussed possible variations on the A/B model, including having in-person instruction for all students during the first few weeks of the term, in order to help orientate students and let them become familiar with their teachers, as well as prepare them for online instruction later.

There was also discussion about possibly having the divided student body have two consecutive days on in-person instruction before switching to online learning. The Omaha school district has selected this model, and half its students will take classes in-person on Monday and Tuesday, while the other half attends classes on Thursday and Friday. The two halves of the student body will alternate having in-person instruction on Wednesdays.

The decision on which model of instruction ICSSD will use to begin the school year that begins on Aug. 24 is scheduled to be made at the Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday.


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