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School districts in Eastern Iowa evaluate options for remainder of school year

The Dubuque school district is promoting good hygiene and handwashing to prevent illness in Dubuque, Iowa on March 2nd, 2020. (Maggie Wedlake, KCRG)
The Dubuque school district is promoting good hygiene and handwashing to prevent illness in Dubuque, Iowa on March 2nd, 2020. (Maggie Wedlake, KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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School districts across Eastern Iowa are facing a choice with the Governor ordering them closed through April.

They have two options to avoid making up the lost time. the first option is to offer voluntary review work for students, but this is not graded and can't be new material. The required option would take attendance and give grades, letting lesson plans move forward.

For some school districts, like Tipton, the required option is not realistic. Superintendent Jason Wester said this is not possible for smaller, rural districts.

"No new instruction is taking place because we can't guarantee students in a rural community to have internet access at home and also have the ability to have the technology to be able to engage in these online learning required classes," he said.

That means students there will not be able to get full grades or learn new material and risk getting left behind on lesson plans.

Wester added the most school districts that have already implemented online learning, like Des Moines, spent around two years trying to set it up.

"I think it would be unrealistic for our teachers to develop an online learning program to move forward in just two weeks," Wester said.

However, the Dubuque Community School District is contemplating giving it a shot. They had already decided to use the voluntary option, but are now considering switching to the required one.

Superintendent Stan Rheingans said they were already planning on adding an online element to their voluntary classes.

"We purchased 300 hot spots, which will be here on Monday, we will start distributing that to families who don't have connectivity. We'll also be checking out laptops for students who don't have them," he said.

But a big district like Dubuque would still face other obstacles if it were to choose the required option. The district has many students who are still learning to speak English and others who require special forms of education.

"We did not know in advance that this decision was coming so we have not planned for it," Rheingans said.

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