Next school year could be a series of starts, stops

School Board
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

     What school will look like this fall is anyone’s guess at this point.

     Monticello Community School District Superintendent Brian Jaeger painted a not-so-pretty picture of possible scenarios during a remote work session of the Monticello School Board May 13.

     Among the things Jaeger is hearing from the Iowa Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that the 2020-21 school year could be a series of starts and stops, depending on the status of the coronavirus at that point. It will likely also include a combination of both online instruction as well as brick-and-mortar classroom learning.

     Jaeger offered these thoughts during his Superintendent’s Report as part of the agenda of the work session, which was conducted using Google Meet.

     “The Department of Ed is telling us, ‘Just plan of having a school year full of, you’re open for a while, you’re closed for a while.’ ” Jaeger said.

     One of the biggest questions facing districts will be what to do if someone in a school tests positive for COVID-19.

     “If we find somebody (who has it), we’ll be closed for a minimum of two to five days,” Jaeger said.

     Extra-curricular activities and group practices and meetings will also need to be shut down during that time, he said.

     Jaeger said districts will need to formulate a hybrid of in-person and online learning to account for frequent school closures, not to mention families who are nervous about sending their kids to school at all, if the virus is still a factor.

     “What we need to do with our staff is do some professional development, so we have time to talk about what worked and didn’t work with our voluntary online learning,” Jaeger said. “Every time we have a closure now, there will be required online learning.

     “The continuous open and shut down are going to be very frustrating for our families, especially families with younger kids. It’s a complicated situation.

     “Those are all things we’re going to have to talk about. We’re all trying to learn as much as we can and come up with ideas.”

In other board business:

     • Food service director Pat Kelly gave an update on the Grab-‘n-Go meals and the summer food program offered by the district.

     The district provides about 160 to 200 breakfasts and lunches per week. Meals are given out Mondays and Wednesdays, with Kelly and four staff members alternating days to work.

     The statewide program began as a way to continue to feed students within the district after schools were ordered to be closed due to COVID-19.

     Thanks to reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the district comes out about even.

     “We’re ahead money (on the meals), until you start factoring in labor,” Kelly said.

     The program has been extended through June 30. Once it ends, the regular summer meal program at Shannon will begin.

     • Curriculum director Robyn Ponder gave a report on new curriculum adoption for science, art, PE and health. The curriculum will be used for seven years.

     The cost to the district is $107,792.63; but Ponder said the district has applied for grants that could reduce to cost to just under $80,000.

     • The board heard reports from each of the district’s school principals. Elementary school principal Denny Folken reported on the return of student items on a drive-by basis April 21, and said the event went smoothly with the help of teachers and staff.

     Retiring middle school principal Brent Meier reported on teachers preparing for the move from the old middle school to the new one. He also said student items are still in their lockers, and a date will need to be set for them to come and retrieve the items.

     High school principal Joan Young reviewed the rescheduled dates and plans for Prom, Graduation, Honors Night and more, which were announced by Jaeger in a recent video. She also noted that after a strong start, participation by students in voluntary educational enrichment opportunities has decreased.


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