CORONAVIRUS

Cedar Rapids families have till Aug. 5 to decide on virtual or in-school learning

Several changes made to district's return-to-learn plan reduce teachers' risk

(File photo)A Cedar Rapids Community School District bus at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on T
(File photo)A Cedar Rapids Community School District bus at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Community School District leaders are hopeful enough families will choose online learning so ratios for in-person learning will range from 12 to 15 students per teacher at the elementary level.

This will allow for more social distancing to reduce the risk of passing the virus that causes COVID-19.

But school board members don’t want families to feel guilty if they choose to send their kids to school.

“I want us to encourage parents to choose a robust virtual experience if that’s what’s right for their children,” board member Jennifer Neumann said during a meeting Tuesday night. “I don’t want parents to feel like in-person learning is not an option or feel terrible about it.”

The district will release its final return-to-learn plan Friday, and families will have until Aug. 5 to decide whether their children will start the year in the classroom or do virtual learning.

District staff on Tuesday presented changes made to their original plan, released July 13, based on feedback from parents, teachers and other stakeholders. Here’s what students will see at each educational level:

Elementary

In-person pre-K through fifth-grade students will attend five days a week, spending most of their day with their homeroom teacher. All students will wear face shields provided by the district. The district is working on changes to allow art, music and physical education teachers to limit their exposure while still allowing for those classes.

Classrooms will have no more than 20 students, but the district is expecting more like 12 to 15.

Middle school

Middle school students also will attend five days a week and be required to wear cloth masks provided by the district. Some face shields will be available if students and staff struggle with cloth masks. Students will have an advisory teacher who supervises the students, with content teachers coming in — either physically or virtually — to provide instruction.

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“Teachers are at different levels of comfort with exposure,” said Adam Zimmermann, executive director of middle schools. “One of the big changes we made is to grant the schools flexibility” to adjust how content teachers provide education.

Middle school classroom ratios will be no more than 20-to-1.

High school

Cedar Rapids high schoolers who choose in-person learning will be in the buildings two days a week, with online learning the other days. Students will be divided into two groups, by the first letter of their last names, to reduce the number of students in the building each day. They will take classes on a block schedule, where classes are longer, but there are fewer per day.

A change from the original plan has each cohort taking the same three to four classes one week (A week) and then switching to another three to four classes the next week (B week). This reduced by half a teacher’s exposure to different pupils. The district also will alternate which cohort starts on Monday so students have the same chances of attending the day after the weekend deep cleans at the schools.

District staff say preliminary surveys indicate roughly the same number of families want the virtual option as the number of teachers who prefer virtual teaching during the pandemic.

An in-person option is a must now that Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation stating all schools must offer in-person learning with at least 50 percent of classes taught in the schools. Violating that proclamation could endanger the district’s accreditation or reduced state funding, Superintendent Noreen Bush said.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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