Nelson provides update on Return to Learn plan

The Shenandoah Community School District is working on a leveled response for the Return to Learn plan this fall.

During the Shenandoah School Board meeting June 22, Shenandoah Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson provided the board with an update on the plan that will be submitted to the state in July.

Nelson, along with committees made up of district staff, are working on a four-level contingency plan for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. This plan will be used to help communicate with families amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nelson said an essential factor in developing the plan is ensuring the perspective of classroom teachers are being considered. She said the committees are exploring the challenges that could arise from safety precautions that are put in place and also considering what online learning might look like with additional training and support for staff.

“I’m confident that they can rise to the occasion if we support them in the process of getting there,” said Nelson.

Nelson said one committee has focused on academic rigors regarding online teaching and learning and working to deliver a full comprehensive model of instruction for students. She said with the training that will be provided for the teaching staff, the district can provide a stronger model for the students.

“We are setting the stage to provide three days of training for all of our teaching staff in July,” said Nelson.

Nelson said the district is building the Return to Learn plan for two reasons. One is state compliance and the second is it will increase the ability to use technology in the classroom daily to provide a blended model of instruction.

“So, we don’t want to waste our efforts,” said Nelson. “We want to go into this fall knowing that we’ll be teaching, and delivering instruction, and using some of the tools that we’re developing. And, if we have to transition to a point where we’re completely removed, we’ll be prepared to do that. And, it will be more natural for our students, because they will already have explored and used the tools.”

Nelson said technology continues to be the largest concern for the district. She said the district would need to purchase an additional 105 Chromebooks for students in lower grade levels. The purchase would be funded from the CARES Act and could cost up to $30,000.

Another concern Nelson said is the areas of Shenandoah that have limited access to WiFi.

“Some of our planning in this area is to consider opening our buildings earlier in the

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morning and keeping them open a little later in the evening so that students can come and work earlier in the morning or after school,” said Nelson.

Nelson said the district has also relocated access points to different areas of school buildings to help people connect to WiFi in the school building parking lots. She also plans to recommend the district purchase hotspots for different areas of the community and look at additional ways to extend more community access. Nelson said access would be restricted and the district would be able to control that by purchasing the equipment. Funding from the CARES ACT would cover the cost of buying the equipment.

One area in the plan that continues to change is health and safety issues.

“The committee came up with recommendations that we felt we could work with in our school environment,” she said. “Things like hallway passageways being identified, when to wear a mask, or when you wouldn’t have to. We could use the lunchroom maybe at 50% capacity, depending on the extent of how COVID was affecting the community.”

Nelson provided an outline of the four levels of response for the district, depending on the COVID-19 situation.

Level 1: There would be a very low risk of COVID-19 and school would resume as usual with minimal restrictions.

Level 2: There would be a moderate risk of COVID-19. However, school would be in session with all students attending, but physical distancing and restrictions would be in place. Some safety procedures that may be implemented at this level would be signage and marking passageways, wearing masks in group settings and having some meals served in classrooms. Athletics would be at the discretion of the athletic association and other activities would be canceled, postponed, or altered.

Level 3: The risk of COVID-19 would be higher and additional restricitons and student separation would be implemented. Nelson said the district would have as many students attending school as possible, but they may be using an altered schedule. She said the district would prioritize keeping kindergarten through eighth grade in session and move ninth through 12th grades to online learning. All meals would be served in the classrooms and transportation would be altered to reduce the number of students on the routes. Additional restrictions on athletics and activities would be implemented.

Level 4: The risk of COVID-19 would be high enough that school would be closed. All grade levels would go to required online learning, with staff only reporting for essential tasks and duties.

“Level two is really what we are looking at,” said Nelson. “If I had to say today, what is our response? I would say we are probably a level two.”

Nelson said she hopes sharing with the public that the district is moving forward with the mindset of opening at Level 2 will help build public trust and understanding, and help families prepare for what to do next.

In other business, the board:

- Approved the consent agenda, which included the resignation of Amy Culbertson as JK Instructor and Trent Blackman as a van driver. The consent agenda also included contracts for 25 instructors for the district’s summer learning, credit recovery, and intervention program at $25 per hour.

- Approved the contract for the IFSIS Write to Learn.

- Approved the purchase of lunchroom tables from Kriegler, totaling $78,536.98.

- Approved the final reading of graduation credit requirements.

- Approved the first reading of options to diploma for special education.

- Appointed Aaron Burdorf as the equity coordinator and Gayle Allensworth and Tiffany Spiegel as alternate investigators.

- Appointed Linda Laughlin, Kristie O’Rourke, Aaron Burdorf, or Gayle Allensworth as Level 1 investigators for allegations of child abuse by a staff member.

- Appointed out of district individual, legal counsel or AEA representative as a Level 2 investigator of allegations of child abuse by a staff member.

The next regular meeting will be at 5 p.m. July 13.

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