Return to Learn Update July 1
This communication is intended to provide context to where we are today and share the feedback we’ve received since our last communication. This is the “Friday” communication for this week with the July 4th holiday this weekend.
All districts in Iowa were tasked with submitting a Return to Learn assurances to the state with a deadline of today, July 1. As mentioned last week, we have dozens of teams working on their portion of the plans. Waukee has completed the required assurances for the Iowa Department of Education, and they are available on our website. Our intent is to have our finalized plan completed to the extent possible by July 27, 2020. All of the portions of the plan will be integrated during that week, and we are working towards a special Board Meeting on August 3, 2020, to present our plan.
MOST FREQUENT FEEDBACK – FACE COVERINGS
The item I have been most frequently contacted about since Friday is the discussion of face coverings/masks. This decision is a microcosm of the complexity of the issues we face in planning. Examples of communication I’ve received frequently indicate the science is clear, or it is common sense, or wearing a mask shows care for others. What I can tell you is that likely there will be more nuance required in decision-making than any of those concepts imply.
Our Health and Safety Committee members are reviewing a number of guidance documents. They will be putting together a recommended framework of guidelines for social distancing, cleaning protocols, face coverings, and more. We have a number of excellent health and medical professionals in our community. Many of them have volunteered their services and we are in the process of asking them to review the guidelines based on their knowledge and experiences and to provide us with feedback.
OUR CONTINUED FOCUS
While we don’t have every detail worked out, our goal is to have students physically present in school. Our priority is the safety and overall health of children, staff, and communities based on available evidence.
Schools are fundamental to a child’s development and well-being and provide all our students with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, mental health resources, safety, reliable nutrition, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the educational development of our students, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity.
As we have since March, we will remain flexible in responding to new information, and we will pivot when specific strategies are not working. Our strategies will be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with local public health authorities.
RETURNING TO SCHOOL IN AUGUST
In the coming weeks, we are going to ask parents/guardians if they are planning to have their child/ren return to school in the fall. We will work to have as many answers in place as possible upon which parents/guardians will make that important decision for at least the first semester. This feedback will be important for staffing considerations for our physical buildings as well as an online school. We are working on an online solution for all families who do not feel comfortable having their child/ren return in the fall. Additionally, we will have more information about before and after school care in the coming weeks.
I am sensitive to the idea that people want to be able to plan for the coming year. The challenge is none of us have those answers as we sit here today. I would encourage everyone to continue to be thinking about what an in-person return to school looks like, how a week or so could be covered if we were to have a short-term closure, how weeks and months could be covered were we to get to that situation again, and what a schedule would look like for child supervision and education at home were we to get to that point.
We will have more to come in the next few weeks, please stay connected. Have a great holiday weekend.
Dr. Brad Buck, Superintendent