ATLANTIC – Atlantic School officials will be sending a “return to learn” manual to parents and staff today, which gives more details on how the district will educate students next school year, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Because of the outbreak, school officials were required to create plans to educate students in a number of different ways, whether it is online learning, in person or a hybrid of online and in class learning.
Atlantic Superintendent Steve Barber said the goal was to have students be educated in person, but said there may be some students that, due to health issues, will have to use the online option. The plan provides guidelines ranging from health and safety to what tools staff will use to teach students online.
“We are intending to go to school on site,” Barber said Wednesday night, following a board meeting during which the plan was discussed. “(The plan will) provide guidance to health and safety, to what we’re doing in regards to Iowa academic standards, what tools we’re using for remote learning, all of those types of things.”
He said the plan includes strategies to keep students and staff healthy and safe, including removing soft surfaces, keeping doors open, requiring hand washing, having personal protective equipment to use like masks and gloves and using floggers to disinfect buildings. The board also discussed a policy that would encourage mask use, but not require it.
Barber also said the plan also includes following social distancing rules as much as possible.
“We’re attempting to use our square footage the best (way) to spread kids out,” Barber said. One example given during the meeting was having students at school move to a computer in another area to watch the lesson instead of seeing it in person in the classroom.
He also said school officials talking to parents whose students may have health issues or who have other family members in the home may be considered at high risk of getting the disease to discuss the best course of action for their family.
“We know we have some kids that have health issues, and we know that there’s families that have health issues (or are) high risk (for the disease),” he said. “We are reaching out to those families to see if (online) learning can take place.”
He did say the school has enough computers for all students to use if they can’t be at school in person.
The biggest point Barber wanted to make was to note that the plan is “subject to change,” as the situation changes constantly, but he is confident that using the strategies to keep people healthy and safe and that Cass County’s experience with the disease is different from other counties in Iowa and countries around the nation, will be helpful in educating students in person.
“(With these strategies), we’re hoping that COVID-19 doesn’t affect a lot of people (in a negative way),” he said. “Fortunately in Cass County, we’re not dealing with the high number of positive cases that other counties in the state are experiencing as well as states in our county.”
Sarah Sheeder, Atlantic School Director of Finance and School Board Secretary, also stressed how important it was for people to contact school officials if they had questions.
“Just call me,” she said. “And then we’ll talk about your specific concern and we can address it. Let’s work through it and get it figured out.”