To start the forum off, Superintendent Pat Hocking explained why the district was looking at having kids back in class in person.
In a survey sent out to district families, Hocking said it was clear that people wanted kids back in school, and district staff did as well, to get “some energy back in the building.” The district did not want to utilize the hybrid model.
However, in order to achieve that face coverings, which would have to cover the nose down to below the chin, would be non-negotiable when social distancing is not possible.
“It was very clear that if we were to bring everybody back, social distancing could not be guaranteed for everybody,” Hocking said.
Areas where masks would be required include hallways and on the bus. Non-compliance would be dealt on an individual basis, with obvious differences between how to deal with elementary and high school students, but that if there was a constant and persistent problem, the student would likely be asked to do schooling from home.
Elementary Principal Shannon Robertson said the elementary is working to be able to ensure kids will be able to take mask breaks throughout the day. Though parents are asked not to leave their vehicles, Robertson said accommodations would be made, if necessary, to deal with children off to the side if there was an emotional transition.
To avoid students congregating outside the building, the district was working to make sure that drivers had their timing down and asking families not to arrive early.
While the district is still figuring out the details of how lunch would work, early numbers determined that 50 students could be put in the cafeteria, and the practice gym could fit around 80.
How things are going with regards to masks would be monitored on a monthly basis, but the plan itself is fluid.
“We’re not going to wait around. If there are things that we can change, that we can improve upon, we’re going to do those immediately,” Hocking said.
When it comes to possible COVID outbreaks, public health officials will drive decisions. If school had to be shut down again and go to online only, teachers were preparing to be able to teach online, and one-to-one devices had been purchased for students. Hotspots had been purchased, and the district was looking at how to help with connectivity issues.
Many questions were asked of the district’s online learning component, being run by Edmentum. The program uses Iowa and Illinois certified instructors that will try to match the district’s curriculum as close as possible, but it might not be exact. Springville teachers will not be instructing those classes, but there will be office hours and accommodations made for special education students. The service is offered tuition-free, paid for by the district.
Families will not be able to bounce back and forth between the two options, and the decision was a semester-long commitment. Though the initial deadline for registering online was set for Aug. 20, with the delaying of the public forum and the start of the school year, that would be pushed back.
For those at school, specials will be rotated in the elementary, and while fifth and sixth grades will have teachers rotate to them, high school students will have to rotate rooms. Locker times will also be staggered to try to limit the number of students in the hallway at one time.
Hocking said district staff worked diligently to put the plan together, saying the staff would give “100%” and that work did not go unnoticed.
“I just feel like we’re going to get through this. You guys are going to figure out a way. There’s going to be hiccups, there’s going to be bumps in the road. We cannot freak out,” Laura Barner said. “We’ve got to trust the people that are there for our kids, making these decisions for our kids because guess what, they do have our kids’ best interests in mind. I truly believe that.”
For their part, earlier in the meeting, Hocking thanked the community for their understanding.
“Since I have put out the plans, I have just been astounded by the Springville community, where I have had zero complaints,” he said. “That’s not happening around the state. I’ll tell you, as a Springville district, the support you give this community is unbelievable.”
The plan was approved at the Aug. 19 school board meeting.
Materials concerning the district’s return to learn plan, including more details on the Edmentum program, can be found under the “Return to Learn 2020-2021” tab of their website, springville.k12.ia.us.