IOWA DERECHO 2020

Marion Independent schools delay two weeks after derecho storm

District seeking waiver from Department of Education for temporary online learning for high school, which was hit hardest

Letters spelling Marion are missing from the side of Marion High School in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Ji
Letters spelling Marion are missing from the side of Marion High School in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — The Marion Independent School District is delaying the first day of school by two weeks, starting Sept. 8, after hurricane-force winds tore roofs off school buildings and caused water damage.

The most significantly damaged building is Marion Independent High School, which Superintendent Janelle Brouwer said she is speaking with the Department of Education about for the possibility of a waiver for short-term online instruction or some forgiveness of days.

“We know it is a pretty strict timeline to meet the Sept. 8 deadline,” Brouwer said. “We’re comfortable with that for every site other than our high school.”

To make up lost days in the school calendar because of a delayed start, the district is shortening spring break to three days instead of five, and adding two weeks to the end of the school year. Students last day of school will be June 11, 2021.

Without power, Brouwer said it’s difficult to control the moisture level in buildings that have water damage. The district is working with a restoration company to get roofs fixed and moisture levels under control “to make sure we’re not dealing with mold or mildew,” Brouwer said.

Brouwer also said delaying the first day of school also will give time for the City of Marion to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe for school buses and students walking or biking to school.

“You can drive around and recognize it’s not the safest to put school buses or walkers or bike riders on the streets,” she said. “We need to make sure the city can get branches and debris cleaned up and kids can safely get to school.”

Return to Learn

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All kindergarten through 12th Grade students will start the school year in a two week hybrid model of in-person and remote learning.

Students will be separated into two cohorts. Students in group A will attend school on-site on Sept. 8 and 9. Students in group B, will attend school on-site Sept. 10 and 11.

The second week of school, students in group A will attend on-site on Monday and Tuesday, and group B will attend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

On Monday, Sept. 21, group A will attend on-site, followed by a professional development day for teachers on Sept. 22.

On opposite days, students will attend online.

On Sept. 23, all students will start on-site unless they are enrolled in online learning, which is available to all families.

Brouwer said a couple hundred students have signed up for online learning, which is being offered through Edgenuity for kindergarten through 5th Grade, and Apex for 6th through 12th Grade.

She expects 75 to 80 percent of students to attend school on-site based on a survey to families earlier this summer.

High school students also have the option of enrolling in classes offered at the high school online. For example, if a student can take a math class in-person at the high school and their other classes online.

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Over 35 percent of families still need to register for the online or hybrid learning option, Brouwer said.

The registration site was down last week after the derecho storm, but is now open again.

Face coverings — either a mask, face shield or both — are required for students when social distancing isn’t possible, Brouwer said.

“If they can have six feet of social distancing, we’re going to understand there will be times when students need a break (from wearing a mask),” Brouwer said.

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

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