OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school district is preparing for the return of school in the fall, but Superintendent Nicole Kooiker says it will look much different than it has in the past.

She said the district has recently received guidance on how to prepare the “Return to Learn Plan,” which the state said must be completed by July 1 when Gov. Kim Reynolds announced schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year.

Kooiker said there are three models the district must be ready for.

Documents from the Iowa Department of Education say the first is a plan for required continuous learning. This is a departure from what the district is currently doing with voluntary continuous learning.

“This learning plan can be used in an emergency, such as the resurgence of COVID-19, or under another circumstance in which it is not possible for students to be in the building receiving instruction,” the document states. All schools must have a plan requiring participation as schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year and is the only portion that must be approved by the IDOE.

“Required Continuous Learning ensures that academic work is equivalent in effort and rigor to typical classroom work. All students are required to participate, attendance is taken, and credit is granted,” reads the document.

The second model is a hybrid plan of required online and on-site learning. “This means services are offered both remotely and at physical school locations,” the document says. “The Hybrid model may allow for social distancing while partially reopening school buildings to provide educational services.”

The third model is a plan for on-site delivery. This option may be implemented as part of a school’s return-to-learn plan “as long as it is deemed safe by public health officials and the school has actively planned for appropriate health and safety measures,” the document states.

“The third one is face-to-face,” Kooiker told the school board earlier this week, “but face-to-face during a COVID, so they’re saying school will not look like school has in the past, and they’re saying to plan for an environment, even with face-to-face, of 10 in a classroom or less.”

“On-Site Learning may be delivered on alternative schedules to accommodate requirements for social distancing,” the guidelines say, “and augmented with targeted distance education strategies for those students and teachers who are unable to enter school buildings.”

“Those are the only three options they’re giving us for August,” Kooiker said. “They’re not planning on school looking like typical school.”

Under all three models, the document says all students are required to participate, attendance will be taken and grades and credit will be given for work submitted.

An additional document, spanning 40 pages, details what considerations will need to be put into place under the models. Kooiker said there are a number of “plans, procedures and things we’re going to have to change in order to do this well for students in the future.”

“When you ask, ‘Are you preparing for school?’ we are, but we’re preparing for school to look very, very different in the fall,” she said.

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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