CR school district officials detail “Return to Learn” options, substitute teacher to offer homeschooling

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 11:10 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids Community School District families and staff now have a very specific look at what their choices will be as they return to the classroom next month.

“School is going to look different even in the in person model,” said Deputy Superintendent, Nicole Kooiker.

An in person learning option is one of three options families and staff will be weighing, where elementary and middle school students will be in groups, isolated from other students in the building. High school students will go every other day.

The Short-term virtual option puts students entirely at home, but doesn't say how long this will be used. Teachers from various buildings will teach all elementary or middle school students. For high school, students will follow the same schedule as their peers that are in-person but using remote options. The third option is permanent virtual. This uses the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy that the district launched last year and is only available for middle and high school students. Students learn at their own pace from online educators, not from district teachers.

“We’re providing our staff with the professional learning opportunities that they need to successfully transition into this environment and help students be successful,” said Kooiker.

Kooiker says she's hoping to get responses by next week so they can start matching teachers to students for both in person and virtual plans. The District is also getting their buildings prepared for those who will be in the classroom- putting air purifiers in locations that need it.

“We do have the building that have geo-thermal, which means that the windows are open but our buildings and grounds and facilities, engineers have been going around and checking everything,” she said.

For the most part, everything will be in smaller groups including recess.

“We’re making sure we keep the cohorts small, those student and staff ratios, so again if someone is positive, we can do that tracing back and also remove a small portion of the district at a time,” she added.

If a student does test positive, that group of students and staff will be quarantined for two weeks. “We set it up where they can seamlessly transition to that virtual instruction at that point of time so it’s not like they would be out of school,” Kooiker said.

In the case of an outbreak, she also says they are prepared to be fully functional if they have to close a classroom, whole school or even entire district. For now, their biggest hiring needs are for bus drivers and substitute teachers.

Rachel Schlager will be one of those subs. She's taught in the district for years.

“I know were going to be needed so I’ll be doing that two to three days a week,” said Schlager.

Then two days a week, 6 hours a day, she’ll be offering her own homeschooling services in her art studio – Threads.

“Because I have room for students to be 6 feet apart, four students in here at 6 feet apart, I can use this space to help with homeschooling, and keep the pods small. Maybe keep it in a family or with kids that have been playing with each other already,” she said.

Mask will be required for in person. There’s also an online option too. Schlager says she gotten many inquiries from parents, but many are still nervous.

“I’ve got a lot of friends who are teachers and friends who are parents and it’s been incredibly hard and that’s part of the reason this idea came up because I know for a lot of teachers, this is something they wish they could do, but they can’t lose pension and retirement. It’s just absolutely heartbreaking,” Schalger said.

But, she’s getting support and recognizes everyone is trying to make the safest environment they can.

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