FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Community School District Superintendent Laurie Noll revealed the school's "return to learn" plan and took several questions during a virtual town hall presentation Thursday.
The school will have on-site, hybrid and virtual-only plans at its disposal but will start with either the in-person attendance or online-only for the first day of school, which is Aug. 24, depending on choices by families. Families are recommended to list their preference — on-site or online — during the registration process.
"We want kids to be in school, and we know they learn best with that face-to-face interaction," Noll said. "We want our students and staff to go as long as possible and be as safe as possible."
Under updated guidelines from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday, the ability to adjust from on-site, hybrid and virtual learning will depend on the number of COVID-19 cases and percentages in Jefferson County at a given time.
Fairfield's open house, which is scheduled for Aug. 20, is the first important event of the new year, and will be limited to two family members per student and will be done alphabetically.
Other items from the school's plan:
• Face shields or masks are required to by worn by students and staff, unless there is a medical reason to not wear a covering, but there is no mandate to wear both at the same time. Both shields and masks will be provided by the school district, and mask breaks will be built into the day.
• All students, pre-K through 12th grade, will have either an iPad or MacBook Air laptops, and all classes and lessons for virtual learning will be online through Canvas.
• There will be assigned seating on buses and masks worn by drivers and students; for families with only one student, that student will sit alone.
• The goal is to keep groups in classrooms together as much as possible under the "cohort" method, which could help in the event of a positive case of the virus, as well as creating smaller groups for lunch.
• Deep cleaning will take place every day, as buses will be sanitized after the route is completed and classrooms will be fogged with disinfectant. Bathrooms, door handles and hand rails will be cleaned at regular intervals.
Noll also addressed other issues, such as supplying internet hotspots for families without internet, to the procedures for contact tracing. Both are still undetermined, though she did say that if families decide on the virtual learning option, the sooner the school knows the better.
"This is not the year for perfect attendance, and we won't be awarding that," she said.
Many schools have similar 'return to learn' plans. What some of those schools are planning for the school year:
The school plans to return to school Aug. 24, with three different attendance models: all-student attendance; hybrid-student attendance and no student attendance.
In an all-student scenario, mitigation measures will be implemented to balance education against COVID-19 transfer. Individual building protocols exist, with each building having "unique structures to succeed and be challenged."
Under a hybrid model, half the students attend school on each day as assigned by the district, and would occur if several students or staff have returned positive COVID-19 tests.
Under a no-student plan, students would not be in school, but staff attendance would be required. All student learning would be done virtually, or through the delivery of packets, but the a virtual option would have to occur with permission from the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Department of Health. Also, a specific classroom may be asked to not attend school due to a specific room situation.
In an on-site or hybrid plan, students and staff would be encouraged to wear masks, as well as adhering to social distancing guidelines. There would be assigned seating on buses, different eating areas for students and limited visitors to classrooms.
Pekin will begin school Aug. 25 and is "strongly recommending" students and adults over age 10 wear face coverings if social distancing isn't possible, particularly on school buses. Students under 10 will not be asked to wear face coverings.
Also, adults will be screened on a daily basis by answering questions about having a fever or any potential contact with someone infected in the previous 14 days. If an individual tests positive, a single school could be closed down temporarily for cleaning and sanitizing.
Students will also continue participation in activity classes, check out library books, etc., and classrooms will be arranged to provide for social distance.
Should schools close, a virtual learning option has been developed that will utilize Google Classroom, Zoom for Google Meet, and students will learn how to use those systems through digital lessons throughout the week.
If a student decides to participate in an virtual-only plan, they will not be involved in on-campus or extracurricular activities.
The school district will be going with a green (on-site), yellow (hybrid) and red (online) plan, as the school begins Aug. 26.
Superintendant Dan Maeder also outlined the school's "return to learn" plan in a virtual meeting last week. School registration begins today, with any in-person registration Monday. If families choose the online plan, the deadline to contact the school is Aug. 10, and students will have to stay in that plan until the end of the semester.
The school will "highly encourage" face coverings for students and staff, and that the school will find it difficult at times to maintain social distancing, in which "we will do the best we can."
The school advises families to take temperatures of their children each day. Only one grade level will have recess at a time, and Maeder made one aspect of the school year clear.
"Elementary kids will be the last group we send home if we have to do that, because the older kids are more apt to online learning," he said.
The school also will utilize it's website and Facebook page each Friday to provide updates for the following week.