CLINTON — Before Clinton students had attended one day of in-person summer school, classroom sessions were canceled and the program was moved online due to a COVID-19 case.
That change came days after the Clinton School District amended its Return-to-Learn plan for the 2020-2021 school year to meet the requirements of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ July 17 proclamation, according to Clinton School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy.
A complex plan for returning to school in Clinton next month combined in-house classes for younger students and online learning for older students. That plan changed when Reynolds mandated that all students attend school on-site.
The District sought guidance from the Iowa Department of Eduction, DeLacy said last week, and created a different hybrid model, one that would have all students on campus a couple of days a week.
The plan did not change for preschool through fifth grades, DeLacy said. The District’s initial plan required those students to attend school in person every day, though some will have classes in different buildings.
“[Pre-kindergarten] through [fourth grade], with the exception of Whittier Fourth grade, will attend their neighborhood elementary or preschool center every day,” DeLacy said in an email last week.
“Whittier fourth and fifth grade will attend Clinton Middle School in a separate pod. Fifth grade from Bluff, Eagle Heights and Jefferson will attend at Clinton High School in a separate part of the building.”
Students in grades 6-12 will attend class in person on A or B days. “That means every student in these grades will alternate an on-site learning day with an online learning day,” DeLacy said.
Parents will receive additional information from middle school and high school administrations as to what students can expect with the hybrid model, DeLacy said.
Students served at the Gateway Learning Center will attend onsite every day as originally planned.
The District’s return plan allows families to choose full-time online learning by choice or for medical reasons, DeLacy said. The new plan educates as many students as possible face to face while following Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines.
The plan also addresses childcare difficulties for families with younger children and the District’s belief that younger students are more dependent on their teachers for learning, DeLacy said.
Summer school was supposed to begin Aug. 3 for elementary and middle school students to “jump start” the new school year that begins Aug. 17.
Instead, students will begin summer school online July 27-31 due to COVID exposure among the teaching staff, DeLacy said.
Clinton High School Principal JR Kuch told DeLacy Saturday that a teacher who was supposed to teach summer school tested positive for COVID-19, DeLacy said. The teacher learned of her exposure Thursday.
The exposure didn’t occur at school, but in the teacher’s personal life, DeLacy said. Health officials considered the teacher a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID, “So this teacher went and got tested,” DeLacy said.
The result was positive.
The day before the teacher was aware of her exposure to the virus, she worked with other teachers to plan the week of summer school. “Those teachers were considered a close contact by Michele Cullen,” DeLacy said. “They had to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Cullen, Community Health Manager for the Clinton County Health Department, had advised the District on COVID issues.
“The actual planning was on Wednesday,” said DeLacy. “The teacher was not exhibiting any symptoms.” DeLacy didn’t know if other summer school teachers tested positive or not, he said Monday. “And Michele Cullen would tell you it doesn’t matter anyway.
“Unfortunately, I think this is the way the world is going to work until we get a vaccine,” DeLacy said.
The incident underscores the difficulty of the next school year, DeLacy said. If a teacher tests positive, who doesn’t come to school the next day? The whole school? One pod?
“What we’re doing now is, we’re going to run [summer school] online this week.” Depending on test results and completion of quarantine, the District may offer four in-person summer school days Aug. 6, 7, 10 and 11, DeLacy said.
“We’re are looking at offering face-to-face for the high school summer school then, plus the online.”
The COVID situation gave the District a few extra days of summer school, DeLacy said. The service was scheduled for five days, but now it will be offered for nine days, four of them face-to-face.
Summer school is offered to select students whom teachers and administrators think would benefit from additional teaching. High priority was given to students who did not actively engage during online learning in the spring, students who had learning gaps or were below grade level before COVID-19 caused disruption and students whose learning styles best fit in a face-to-face model, the District says on its website.