IOWA DERECHO 2020

Cedar Rapids schools revising staffing for online start for middle, high school students after derecho

Damage from the derecho Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Damage from the derecho Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Community School District is revising its staffing plans and high school class schedules after the derecho storm interrupted its return to learn planning in August.

With more than 30 district buildings damaged in the Aug. 10, storm, the district is bringing elementary students back on-site, and middle and high school students will learn remotely until their school buildings are ready for occupancy.

During a school board meeting Monday, Superintendent Noreen Bush announced ImOn, an internet provider, received a grant for Cedar Rapids and other area districts to provide internet access to students who otherwise would not be able to have internet in their homes.

Bush said the grant would provide internet for “a good amount of students and families.”

The district also has hot spots available for students who don’t have internet at home.

The first day of school is Sept. 21.

Although the district had initially settled on a hybrid plan for the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and staff are being reallocated for online learning as the district works to repair buildings.

It will continue to be important to stress to students taking online classes the importance of social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands frequently to curb the spread of coronavirus in the community, Bush said.

“We definitely had a plan for that in-person, but emphasizing it even with the remote environment continues to be important,” she said.

About 66 percent of students signed up for in-person learning before the derecho, and 29 percent had signed up for 100 percent online learning. About 700 students are enrolled in the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy.

Cedar Rapids high school students are moving to a virtual block schedule. Instead of the traditional schedule of taking seven classes a day, students will take four classes on A days and four classes on B days. Classes will be about 80 to 90 minutes.

The block schedule allows for more flexibility for teachers who might be teaching online-only until January when the Kennedy, Washington and Jefferson high school buildings are safe for occupancy.

Because of the high enrollment in the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy, some teachers may be shifted as short-term Virtual Academy teachers. For example, Bush said teachers may have four sections of 10th-grade language arts, and teach another few sections of Virtual Academy.

There are eight full-time Virtual Academy teachers and one counselor.

Linda Noggle, executive director of human resources and talent management, said from a staffing perspective the district is actually in the “best position” they’ve ever been in.

Paraeducators, for example, will be able to have more students than they would be able to have in a “brick and mortar situation.”

The district has a few teaching positions open, which is typical, and could use more bus drivers, but it will be manageable with middle and high school students online.

Financial result of derecho

The district still is determining what the cost of the derecho damage will be.

David Nicholson, executive director of business and board treasurer, said the district is working with its insurance company on establishing what costs will be covered by FEMA.

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The district will pay one deductible for all the facilities damaged since the storm was a single event, he said.

“The lion’s share of repairs to our facilities will be covered by insurance,” Nicholson said.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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