Dubuque Community School District prepares for return to fully in-person learning

This will be the first time a fully in-person option is available to students since last March
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 8:50 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Samantha Korman’s 5-year-old daughter, Charleston, had a hard time when school shut down last spring.

“She took it very hard, and was very worried about her friends, her teachers, and did not really understand why she had to be at home,” Samantha explained.

Charleston was participating in the hybrid Return to Learn program, but with that option out of the table, Samantha has decided to move her to fully in-person learning. That is a decision she describes as a no-brainer.

“Now that she can go fully in-person she is even more excited because now she gets to make new friends and see other kids from the opposite days from her,” she said.

And just like Samantha, many other parents have decided to send their kids back to school in-person full-time.

Stan Rheingans, the district’s superintendent, said they are surprised to see many parents are switching their students from fully online to fully in-person. The district assumed every student doing the hybrid program would switch to in-person, but of those who made a different change, Rheingans said around 75 percent switched from online to in-person.

With more students filling the classrooms, that means a lot of planning will go into this transition.

Rheingans said they created a buffer zone in front of the classroom for teachers so that they can maintain a six-foot social distance from students.

“We do need to keep our staff healthy because, if our staff becomes ill, obviously we are concerned about their illness, but we also cannot have school days because of just not having the teachers available,” he explained.

The superintendent said it will be impossible to promise every student will stay six-feet apart from others all of the time, but to assist with social distancing inside the classroom, the district will also be adding additional class sections in some buildings.

“That is a little controversial because then some students will have to change teachers two thirds of the way through the school year, but there really is not anything we can do about that,” he said. “If we are going to add sections somebody is going to have to move.”

Rheingans said lunch time will also look a bit different.

“We have created a seating chart that is sort of a ‘W’, if you will, on our cafeteria tables so that the students are not sitting directly across from each other,” he explained. “They are sitting in sort of a ‘V’ or ‘W’ shape, again, creating as much space as possible.”

Rheingans said they have put a lot of thoughts to school buses as well.

“Sitting siblings together, sitting students in assigned seating chart so that, if we do have to do contract tracing because someone is positive, we can easily say, ‘These are the students who may have been exposed’,” he commented.

Even with all of the planning going on, Rheingans said, at the top of the list, are the vaccines.

Teachers and school staff are part of Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination process.

Rheingans said the district is expecting to know soon how many vaccines it will be allocated for next week.

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