ALBIA — The airplane was built in the air in March, landed in May and three months have now passed.
When it comes to Albia Community School District’s plans to reopen Aug. 25, Superintendent Kevin Crall hopes that airplane flies higher and runs faster.
The school district, like many others, has come up with three plans for reopening in the time of COVID-19 — an entirely face-to-face plan that Gov. Kim Reynolds has proclaimed will happen, a hybrid of face-to-face and online learning, and an online-only plan.
All have their challenges, but Crall is determined to make all of them robust if circumstances change almost instantaneously.
“You’re only as good as your execution of the plan, so our goal is to really look at this like a traffic signal with red, yellow and green,” Crall said. “We have to try to monitor it by building and even by classroom. Hopefully all of our plans are workable.”
The district did telephone surveys to gauge interest in the plans, and Crall said 85 percent of families wanted to send their children back to school, which is the first option the school will focus on. The school board will meet Aug. 4 to take up the issue. For those who won’t send their children back, a virtual option will be offered.
“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, particularly on the transportation side,” Crall said. “Overall, schools just weren’t built to promote social distancing. We have pretty tight lockers, restrooms, etc. It all goes against the idea of social distancing.”
Still, Albia has had to adapt, just as other schools have and will. Crall said there won’t be lunches in the cafeteria for the foreseeable future. The district already has a shortage of bus drivers and buses to compound the transportation issue, but Crall said there will likely be a requirement for drivers to wear masks, and there will be assigned seating on the bus.
Albia is part of the four-county ADLM consortium that formed in the wake of COVID-19. Appanoose, Davis, Lucas and Monroe county superintendents all make up a group trying to determine what is best for their educational communities.
“We’ve all pretty much come at this that we’re all in this together. We’ve talked with everyone from public health to insurance companies, tech people in our schools,” he said. “There has been a lot that has gone into this, but you’re only as good as the PPE (personal protective equipment), etc. The one thing we have to be able to do is adjust quickly.”
Crall said an all-virtual learning experience “would be easier, but it’s not the best for kids because they need the social and emotional learning as well.”
“The hybrid plan is kind of a cure for that, but it’s something we’re going to need to revisit because you have to have at least 50 percent of that curriculum online (per the governor), and we didn’t,” he said.
Crall said the plan is to get the pre-K through second-grade children to attend every day, and he’s had to get creative to accommodate class sizes. He’s met with area churches to see how or if they could house younger children.
He said the dependence on masks will be a school board decision, but he could see situations when they wouldn’t be needed, if social distancing can be attained.
“I’d strongly recommend them when you can’t social distance, but it’s probably a good practice to do, but a lot of younger kids put their hands to their faces,” he said. “Wearing a mask for an hour is tough, but now you’re looking at seven hours a day.”
Crall is like many administrators in that he has no real idea how all this will look once school begins. He did, however, offer a philosophy nugget.
“We can’t be frozen in what we do,” he said. “The virus is an invisible enemy. We have to be flexible. That’s our mission.”