Iowa City Schools addresses some concerns related to online learning decision

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:04 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Students in the Iowa City Community School District will not be returning to the halls and classrooms this fall.

The school board made the decision Tuesday night to start with online learning, but interim Superintendent Matt Degner said that could eventually change.

“I think we definitely anticipate that our students will be on-site at some point during the school year,” Degner said.

Degner said they have quite a few options moving to the fall. He said the district will keep track of metrics related to the pandemic as the year processes to see if the student population could be cut in half and rotate days on-site. Until that point, the district is working on accelerating its one-to-one technology plan, providing laptops to all of its students.

This spring, Mediacom and Verizon helped with mobile hotspots.

“We’ll continue that again in the fall and make sure we meet those needs and turn that around,” Degner said. “Some of the timing of that was a challenge and trying to do it so quickly in the spring. But, again, with having a little bit of space here we hope that we’re able to be better positioned in the fall and that we meet those needs.”

The district is working with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to develop a plan to help students who require special education. John Speer, with the AEA, said every student in the state requiring special education has an Individualized Education Plan. He said they’ll meet individually with each student and family to develop that plan to fit any learning model.

“It could be individual Zoom meetings with the students, most speech students get weekly services, those types of things. But most of our services we can convert pretty easily to a virtual environment,” Speer said.

Degner said he knows there’s still a lot of uncertainty related to what some parents who work during the school day will do, but says the district is committed to working on solutions.

“That spoke to the weight of this decision and its overall capacity too, while health and safety was our key driver there. We don’t want to seem like we’ve ignored the reality and difficulty that that’s placed on families. We know that’s going to be a challenge and so we do think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we are engaged in those conversations and can try to bring good solutions to the table,” Degner said.

He said there is work to be done as a community also in order to help get kids back to on-site learning.

“But, as a community, what we need to take care of first is the pandemic and health and safety needs and commit to the efforts that have been shown to us to work. Like wearing a mask, not going out in public when we don’t need to be, and doing some of those things. And that’s what will get our kids back to school as quick as we can,” Degner said.

The decision on if athletics and activities will resume this fall is still undecided. Degner expects those discussions to happen with the school board sometime in the next two weeks.

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