CORONAVIRUS

Excelsior Middle School applying for waiver for temporary virtual instruction

Linn-Mar prekindergarten through sixth grade moving to hybrid learning

Students walk in to Boulder Peak Intermediate School on Monday, Sept. 14, for the first day of school. Boulder Peak is o
Students walk in to Boulder Peak Intermediate School on Monday, Sept. 14, for the first day of school. Boulder Peak is one of two new intermediate schools to open in the Linn-Mar Community School District this year. (Photo provided by the Linn-Mar Community School District)

MARION — The Linn-Mar Community School District is applying for a two-week waiver for virtual instruction at Excelsior Middle School as it struggles with staffing shortages caused by the coronavirus, and is planning on moving prekindergarten through sixth grade to hybrid learning starting Monday.

Superintendent Shannon Bisgard — with input from the Linn-Mar school board — made the decision to apply for the temporary virtual waiver for Excelsior starting Wednesday, with students returning to hybrid learning Nov. 30, after Thanksgiving break.

Excelsior has 19 staff members absent because of the coronavirus, and the district is struggling to find substitutes to fill the vacancies, Bisgard said. As of Monday, Linn-Mar had 45 students and over 25 staff test positive for COVID-19, and 417 students and 62 staff in quarantine.

“It’s one building I’m extremely worried about and it’s not getting better,” Bisgard said during Monday evening’s school board meeting. “When staff are out right now, they’re not out for a day or two like in the past. They’re out for two weeks. This is without a doubt a building we need to take action on, so we can move forward after that two-week time period in a more proactive way.”

Bisgard said he would submit a waiver request Monday evening.

With the board’s support, Bisgard also made the decision to move prekindergarten through sixth grade from in-person to hybrid learning, with students splitting learning 50-50 between in-person and online.

Students will start in the hybrid model Nov. 16 and possibly return to in-person in January.

Seventh through 12th grade students already are in the hybrid learning model and never moved to fully in-person instruction.

The board did not have to take a vote as return-to-learn decisions are at the discretion of the superintendent.

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Board member Brittania Morey, who has a second-grader enrolled in Linn-Mar’s online learning program, said kids are engaged online.

“There’s laughter, and they’re learning,” she said.

Morey said students cannot stay in school if the community doesn’t start doing its part to mitigate the spread of the virus by wearing masks and social distancing.

School board President Sondra Nelson and members Tim Isenberg and Clark Weaver were also in support of moving to hybrid learning and applying for a waiver.

Board member Barry Buchholz was the only member in slight disagreement. Buchholz acknowledged the growing number of COVID-19 cases, but said the district has a responsibility to keep students in school.

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

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