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School district weigh options for virtual and in-person learning for the spring semester

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 10:38 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Dozens of school districts in Iowa have received waivers to switch to all online learning this week because of rising COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages. Those waivers will allow districts to stop in-person learning for two week, and some schools are looking even further ahead to next semester. The College Community School District is one of those districts that will be learning online for the next two weeks, and it’s also currently working on its Return to Learn plan for the spring.

For the fall semester, the College Community School District offered the option of in-person and virtual learning to all students. But, it’s considering changing the plan for next semester. One option would require students to have a doctor’s note - either for them or family member or care giver - to qualify for the school’s virtual learning program.

The district took a first look at a policy earlier this week on Monday. If approved a second time, it could lead to requiring a doctor’s note for a student to go all-online.

Jamie Soto’s fifth grader is part of the 13% of district students learning virtually. Her son has asthma- and will still be able to learn virtually next semester since she can get a doctor’s note- but she’s concerned about other families no longer getting the choice. “It’s absurd that I have to get a doctor’s note for this. I’m his parent...If that’s what they require my son will still be able to do it, but I know of a handful of parents, who their children nor anyone in the home is at high risk," says Soto.

In a statement to TV-9 about the school board considering this policy change, College Community wrote: “We are working to balance these requests with our capacity to fully staff our buildings for students choosing onsite instruction while continuing onsite mitigation strategies through the end of the school year."

The Iowa Department of Education says state law does not require schools to offer a virtual option to all students. But, they must offer fully online learning to any student with a pre-existing condition, or who lives with someone with one or has a caregiver at greater risk. Many schools, including College Community, extended that plan to all students for the fall semester.

The school board agenda for next Monday’s meeting shows the board will consider sending out forms requiring a doctor to complete a specific form for all-online learning. But the district’s spokesperson said they are still considering offering virtual learning for all students, saying in a statement “Due to the complexity of staffing and operating this program, discussions about the second semester must start now. We are continuing to investigate long-term virtual options for additional students without verified medical need if feasible.” They also say some of the decision has to do with staffing, as some families who are currently online want to return to the classroom.

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