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In response to Gov. Kim Reynolds order to keep schools closed through April 30, the Mount Ayr school board held a special online meeting Tuesday, April 7 to get an updates from the building principals on plans to deliver student learning opportunities.
The Iowa Department of Education has offered school districts the choice between offering Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities or Required Educational Services for their students. Neither of these continuous learning options requires instructional days/hours to be made up.
Required Educational Services requires students to participate, have attendance taken, and work to be turned in and graded.
Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities do not require participation (although it is strongly recommended), attendance to be taken, or work to be graded.
The Mount Ayr Community School District has decided to follow the Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities option due to multiple reasons.
“One of those major reasons is the amount of stress families are already under,” explained elementary principal Chris Elwood. “We don’t want to add to the difficulties everyone is already experiencing.”
Secondary principal Bill Huntington added district students have varying degrees of access to the Internet or home computers.
“We have to make sure all students have equal access to all learning opportunities offered by the district,” he said.
Elwood and Huntington explained district staff have been developing a list of students and what access they have to technology.
Elwood said beginning Monday, April 13, lessons and activities will be posted for each grade-level on the Mount Ayr Community Schools website fwww.mtayrschools.org}.
Families that don’t have internet access, will receive paper/pencil packets in the mail.
Families that have Internet access but don’t have an iPad or computer will be allowed to borrow an iPad from the elementary building.
New lessons and activities will be posted April 13, April 20 and April 27. New packets will be mailed out each week as well
Even if voluntary, the elementary staff encourages parents to have their children complete this work.
Student engagement is also part of the continuous learning plan at the elementary. Classroom teachers and special education teachers will be reaching out to each of their students weekly to converse with them. This communication may take place via Zoom, Facebook Live, or a phone call.
“We want each student to be able to hear (and even see) his or her teacher and vice versa,” said Elwood.
Teachers will contact parents to find out the best way to communicate, and to also find out what days and times work best for their children.
Teachers will also be available daily from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each weekday for student and parent questions. Students and parents can email or call (if the teacher makes their phone number available) teachers during this time and expect a quick response.
Students and parents can also reach out to teachers at other times, but it may take a little longer to get a response.
“I would love to hear from your children via email if they get bored and want to communicate,” Elwood said. “I will make sure to respond to them. Please email me or call 402-680-0703 if you have any questions.”
Secondary principal Huntington provided a bullet list of items pertaining to students in grades 6-12.
• Voluntary Learning: Beginning April 14, teachers will add four more educational opportunities to Google Classroom. They can add a new one each Monday or add all four at one time.
The lesson must have an element of direct instruction, such as. a bulleted/numbered step-by-step direction from the teacher. Teachers may additionally pre-record themselves and post a video for download using Quicktime, with the understanding that not all students will have access to video presentations.
Rather than simple enrichment, Huntington stressed these lessons will build learning experiences from the teachers’ regular standards-based curricula.
Teachers will set-up a channel for feedback and provide students with a timeline of when students should submit work in order to receive feedback. For example: “If you email me your response by Friday, I’ll send you comments by Tuesday” or “I’ll be posting the answers on Wednesday, if you send questions about what you don’t understand by Thursday, I’ll respond on Friday.”
• Academic Feedback: Beginning April 13 all teachers will be available to students on email daily from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Google Classroom, text/phone, Google Hangout, Zoom are all optional, but only email availability is required.
• Grading: As all work is voluntary, no grades will be awarded during school closure or upon return to school.
• Borderline/Ineligible List: Update the borderline/ineligible list by Monday, April 13 based on work submitted prior to March 13. We will not send out Borderline/Ineligible letters.
• Failing students: According to Iowa Department of Education, Director Ann Lebo’s Webinar on April 7, students with a failing grade as of March 12 cannot turn in back work until school is back in session.
The MACS Board of Education does have local control. What that means is the board can decide to offer full or partial credit based on the completion of third quarter grades for both the elementary or the high school.
Students currently involved in credit recovery and those in concurrent enrollment classes can receive credit.
• Student Support: One time per week teachers will reach out to their seminar students with an email. Phone calls, Zoom, Google Hangout, etc. can be utilized. However, every student must receive a weekly email.
• Teacher Leaders: Lead Team will meet weekly via Zoom.
• Staff: A staff meeting for all secondary teachers will take place on April 9 at 8:30 a.m.
• Prom: At this time Prom is postponed. The After-Prom Committee, Barb Gerber and principal Huntington will meet and select a date for prom after public health rescinds current gathering restrictions.
• Graduation: Commencement is postponed until public health rescinds current gathering restrictions.
• Senior Awards Day is postponed until public health rescinds current gathering restrictions. Huntington said guidance counselor Tess Rinehart is continuing to work on scholarships.
• Drivers Education: Inquiries have been made with state officials to see if driver’s education classes can be held.
• Sports: Sanctioning organizations are making decisions related to spring and summer sports. (See page 11 in today’s Record-News for the potential start dates.)
• Ms. Rinehart and social worker Bailey Drake are continuing to provide social emotional exercises for students.
Elwood reminded students and parents that free meals for students are available for all students on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
He said a total of 326 had been delivered across the district on Monday, but he welcomed increased particpation.
He also thanked the cadre of volunteers who have helped in the preparation and delivery of the meals so far.
The Mount Ayr board will hold its regular meeting Monday, April 13.