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A day of rest, and a day of work

ICCSD students get a day off as staff prepares to welcome them back on the 15th

IOWA CITY– Students in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) will have a three-day weekend starting Friday, Feb. 12, as district staff make the final preparations to a return to 100 percent onsite learning on Monday, Feb. 15.
The move follows legislation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday, Jan. 29, requiring school districts to provide a 100 percent onsite option. Parents can still choose a 100 percent virtual (online) learning option if they so desire, but the hybrid model: 50 percent in school and 50 percent online, is gone in the ICCSD.
During a special meeting of the ICCSD School Board on Monday, Feb. 1, Superintendent Matt Degner provided an update on the preparations in place to facilitate the transition back to 100 percent onsite learning. Degner explained the Iowa City Educators’ Association (ICEA) was requesting Friday as a staff work day.
“It’s a chance to align services for students and rebuild schedules,” he said, as well as to get the buildings ready for Monday. Consensus of the board was to proceed with the workday with the understanding while it is a day without instruction for the students, the district has a surplus of days and educational hours (the state requires 180 days or 1,080 hours of instruction per year) and the move would not affect the school calendar.
“I would say up and down the line: administrators, nutrition services, custodians, physical plant, all of us just need time to do this really well to welcome students back on the 15th,” Degner said. He also explained why the ICCSD would no longer offer the 50-50 hybrid option, pointing to a lack of classroom space, which could be dedicated to hybrid learners, and a lack of “extra staff available to separate into a hybrid environment.” Degner said it was understandable parents would have questions, especially if they’ve been doing the hybrid model. “We can’t have the teacher operate two different cohorts of students. They’re going to have a five-day-a-week class that comes to them everyday, and we can’t have another cohort of students attending only two or three days and operating under a different instructional model. That wouldn’t be an effective solution for a high service delivery model.”
Assistant Superintendent Amy Kortemeyer briefed the board on the logistics of going back to 100 percent onsite. As of Feb. 1, 108 elementary students were returning with 73 starting on the 15th (and the balance starting at the third trimester in March). Twenty-seven are moving from onsite to 100 percent online, she added. All totaled, approximately 61 percent of the district’s elementary students will be onsite, she said. Secondary numbers indicated 19 students going from online to onsite on the 15th and 30 making the move in March. Seventy-five students will be going from onsite to online instruction with 43 switching on the 15th and the balance in March. Roughly 59 percent of the high school students will be onsite, Kortemeyer said.
Kortemeyer referenced the district’s Return to Learn Guide, available on the district’s website (www.iowacityschools.org), which is in the process of being revised to remove the hybrid option.
Board member Lisa Williams asked Kortemeyer about class sizes and the district’s Weighted Resource Allocation Model (WRAM). According to the District’s Superintendent Directions 3j6 WRAM “Provides pupil teacher ratios that are educationally appropriate and fiscally sustainable. Annual pupil teacher ratio review and implementation shall consider all factors relevant to academic opportunity and student achievement and include, but not be limited to, the following access to opportunity gaps: English Language Learner status, Special Education Learner status, and Socio-Economic Learner status.” WRAM’s five levels vary from 20 to 34 students and are divided into kindergarten, Grades 1-2, 3-6, 7-8, and 9-12. Kortemeyer said no class would exceed WRAM 5, which varies from 24 students for kindergarten to 28-34 for high school. Some of the lower grades might need to be slightly above their goal size, however.
Board member Charlie Eastham asked Degner about social distancing with more students in the buildings. “The brutal truth of it is, it’s going to be severely impacted. The things we were able to do in the hybrid with effectively social distancing in classrooms and some of the other spaces, is going to be negatively impacted from having additional students on campus,” Degner said. “Obviously having students in classrooms for the instruction on a daily basis is going to be a benefit for them. The ability to social distance in our classrooms, our hallways, our lunchrooms, is going to be different.”
Degner stressed the district’s health and safety protocols would not be scrapped transitioning to the new model but “It’s just going to be different.”