Eastern Allamakee Community School District shares its Return to Learn Plan, will begin school year August 24 with hybrid learning

Monday, July 27 the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) released its Return to Learn plan to the public for the 2020-2021 school year. The overall plan released to the public includes a basic overview of the EACSD plan, a general outline of what that plan will entail and a final overview of the purpose and process of putting the plan together. It is available for viewing in its entirety at www.e-allamakee.k12.ia.us, along with a bullet-pointed quick facts document and a video featuring EACSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier offering further insight and explanation.

Within the plan itself, EACSD officials state that the objective of the district’s Return to Learn plan “is to meet the educational needs of our students while taking heavily into consideration the health, safety, social and emotional needs of our students and staff members which are also part of the educational process.” The district also notes that its initial plan is tentative and subject to change, following the guidelines of the Iowa Department of Education and Department of Public Health, as well as collaborating with Allamakee County personnel to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.

Beginning with the first day of the 2020-2021 school, August 24, and currently planned through at least the end of September, the EACSD will implement a hybrid plan for learning which will include a combination of on-site instruction in classrooms Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with required learning from home each Wednesday. The district says that hybrid approach of two days in school with one day in between learning from home and the two-day weekend will serve multiple purposes, including allowing extra time to those unable to be in school, the ability to meet in smaller groups for those who need extra help, preparing for future shut-downs and at-home learning if that situation were to occur, as well as providing extra time for cleaning and sanitation.

The full plan outlines that the initial hybrid approach will be utilized from the first day of school through the end of the month of September. The only detour from that hybrid schedule will be the week of the Labor Day holiday, where school will be closed that Monday, September 7 for the holiday and once school resumes it will be held for the next four consecutive days that week in the classroom setting, with no continuous learning at home for that week.

The continuous learning at home being implemented the Wednesdays of August 26 and September 2, 16, 23 and 30 as part of the EACSD hybrid plan will utilize the Google Classroom Learning Management System (LMS). This online system will be used as a virtual hub (website) where students can access their classroom content and materials, and collaborate with their teachers. Instructions will be provided to parents and students on how to set up the Google Classroom system at home.

Google Classroom will be used district-wide to meet those continuous learning requirements each Wednesday, with usage of that platform in moderation now also being looked at as a foundation to build on should school buildings be closed down again as they were in the spring. Dr. Crozier also explained in his video message that the district intends to utilize Google Classroom in the event of weather scenarios that may otherwise force “snow days”, keeping the district more on track with its original schedule rather than having to make up those weather days.

The EACSD plan “heavily encourages” the use of facemasks within its buildings but will not require that usage by students or staff. The only exception to not requiring facemasks would be on school buses or shuttles, where the district will require facemasks to be worn due to the confined area within buses and vehicles. In an effort to further reduce the number of children within the confined areas of school buses and the frequency of contact, the district is asking parents to consider transporting their child(ren) to and from school by their own vehicle.

Prior to the start of each school day, the district is also asking that parents or guardians make arrangements to take each student’s temperature at home, as well as conduct a brief COVID-19 screening that is included within the EACSD plan details. That screening will include evidence of any symptoms and questions regarding a child’s exposure to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Further details of that screening are available in the EACSD Return to Learn plan and will be provided to each student’s household.

Lunch at each school building will be divided into two groups that will be rotated on a daily basis, with one group eating in the lunchroom and the other group being served sack lunches in their classroom. The next day, those two groups will reverse roles, with the hot lunch menu being the same for those two consecutive days so that all students will get the same hot lunch during that two-day rotation.

For the Wednesday continuous learning days from home, sack lunches will be available for students to take home Tuesday for that Wednesday lunch at home. Students may also bring their own sack lunch at any time, whether they are part of the lunch room group or classroom group that day. Should the district be forced into an extensive continuous learning mode if schools were to be closed down once again, the district will then look into starting up its sack lunch delivery system it operated through the end of last school year and throughout this summer.

The EACSD intends to clean and sanitize its school buildings on a daily basis and will do the same for high-contact areas throughout the schools on a consistent basis throughout the school day. District officials say they will adjust custodial staff as needed in order to implement those sanitation proceedings.

The district will also provide two additional nurse’s spaces that will include a “well room” and a “care room”. This will allow students who are not feeling well to have a waiting space in a location other than the regular nurse’s office.

In formulating its plan, EACSD officials say they are following the guidance of the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Department of Health and Allamakee County Department of Health because these are the groups that the district is required to follow by Iowa Code. The district also wants to emphasize that this initial plan is a tentative plan and may need to be adjusted on short notice should circumstances require such action.

Additional details on the Return to Learn plan can be found on the EACSD website at www.e-allamakee.k12.ia.us.

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