CEDAR RAPIDS — Shelly Mizner was ready for her three children to head back to school Monday at the College Community School District.
Before the first day of school every year, she takes her children — Grace Reed, 10, April Hunter, 7, and Tiffany Hunter, 6 — to get a haircut and shopping for clothes and school supplies — which this year included face coverings.
“I’d rather my kids be in school,” said Mizner, a single mom who works as a dog groomer.
Her children, who each have an individualized education plan (IEP), are returning to the College Community district in the hybrid instruction model, which rotates between students being 50 percent on-site and 50 percent online. As students in the “Cohort B” group in the rotation, the three siblings started school online Monday.
“I was really worried they were going to be left behind because I didn’t know where I was going to send them to do schoolwork,” said Mizner, whose friend offered to help the students during their online learning days.
College Community is one of the few Eastern Iowa districts this year to start school in August, still delaying the first day of school for one week from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31 so power and Wi-Fi could be restored to the community following the Aug. 10 derecho.
Clear Creek Amana began school Aug. 24. The Iowa City Community School District is starting school virtually for two weeks Sept. 8. The Cedar Rapids Community School District, which was hit hard by the derecho, will not start school until Sept. 21 after receiving several weeks’ forgiveness of instructional time from the Iowa Department of Education.
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College Community elementary students will continue in the hybrid learning model for the first three weeks of school, and secondary students will continue for the first six weeks of school. Before transitioning to 100 percent on-site, the district will evaluate a week before to determine if it needs to stay in the hybrid model or can transition fully to on-site.
“Parents wanted their children back on-site, and they wanted them back on-site safely,” College Community Superintendent Doug Wheeler said.
Only about 750 College Community students — 13 percent — chose the virtual learning model.
Wheeler said if students are going to stay in school, the entire community needs to work to slow the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing, wearing masks and not traveling out of state.
“We know the reality is we’re going to have positive (COVID-19) cases from students,” Wheeler said.
The district is implementing a COVID-19 dashboard to help track students who test positive for COVID-19, and who they come into contact with during the day.
Wheeler said they are going to lean on families’ “honesty” to keep students home when sick.
Wheeler said when there is a positive case of the coronavirus, the exposed classrooms will be notified and asked to quarantine if they were within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.
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“This is a health crisis, and some privacy goes away with that, but we still have a responsibility to maintain as much privacy as possible,” Wheeler said.
Solon’s on-site return
In the Solon Community School District, Cora Sutton, 12, and Elliott Sutton, 11, returned in-person for their first day.
The Solon Community School District, which serves about 1,500 students, offered either an all-onsite option or an all-online option.
Although they’re not sure how long it will last, the Suttons chose the on-site option since mom works in the district as an administrative assistant and could possibly expose the kids to the coronavirus anyway.
Chris Sutton, Cora and Elliott’s father, is a software developer who worked from home even before the coronavirus.
“It was refreshing to have the kids home, but I’m glad they can go back to school and we can try this,” he said.
Only about 100 students in the district chose the online option.
The on-site model is modified from schedules of the past so middle- and high-school students have fewer transitions during the day.
Solon Superintendent Davis Eidahl said he was prepared to bring students back to campus, but even with mitigation procedures expects students and staff to need to quarantine at some point during the semester.
“It might be a situation where a small group in a classroom will need to quarantine or the entire class. It might get to the point that because of absenteeism, we will need to move a whole building online for a while,” Eidahl said.
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