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Not only has this school year turned out like no other before, the upcoming 2020-2021 school year may look different, too.
At their special meeting Thursday, April 23, the Mount Ayr school board heard a proposal from superintendent Joe Drake to cut off the final two weeks of voluntary education in May and to start the new school year two weeks early next August.
“We’ll get a lot more done in the first two weeks in August than we will in the last two weeks in May,” he said.
Under the proposal, teachers would end the posting of new assignments and other materials Friday, May 15.
Food service personnel, he said, would continue through the scheduled end of the school year with additional compensation.
Teachers would report back to school Monday, August 3 prior to students returning to class the following day, Tuesday, August 4.
With staff approval, he said that the district could swap 10 days for staff from this year’s contract and add 10 days to next year’s contract with no change in pay.
Students would enter the new school year in the grade level they would have normally started school.
Drake said he still had a few questions to be answered by the Iowa Department of Education and get an approval from the teachers’ Mount Ayr Education Association before he could finalize the plan.
He hopes to offer such a recommendation and an amended school year calendar to the board at their next special meeting set for Thursday, April 30.
Elementary principal Chris Elwood updated the board on his staff’s continued work during the shutdown.
He said teachers are continuing to follow the district’s voluntary learning plan by posting materials online or including them in paper packets.
He said many students have preferred the paper assignments and materials to the online offerings.
Teachers are also continuing to reach out to their students via online meetings, emails, and phone calls.
No grades will be recorded for fourth quarter.
He again praised the food service staff and volunteers for their delivery of meals during the shutdown. He said on Wednesday alone the district provided 380 breakfasts and lunches to students.
Elwood said teachers have started collecting library and classroom books at the meal drop off sites. He added lockers and desks will be cleaned out by staff and a drive-by pick up night is scheduled for Thursday, May 7.
Pre-school and kindergarten parents should call the school (641-464-0539) May 12 or May 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to register their students.
Children five years old by September 15 are eligible for kindergarten, while children four years old by that date are eligible for pre-school.
Parents with questions may call the school or email Elwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elwood also said his staff is considering offering a summer school program if social gathering restrictions would allow. The program would run the last two weeks in June through the first two weeks in July.
Middle/high school update
Like Elwood, 7-12 principal Bill Huntington said his teachers are continuing to offer voluntary learning activities via Google Classroom or paper packets.
He said second semester grades would be calculated on grades at the end of the third quarter, just before the shutdown went into effect.
He said students would have the option of having that grade appear on their report card, or, if they were unsatisfied with the grade, they could simple have that grade recorded as a “pass,” which would not impact their GPA.
Similarly, students with a failing grade could have it recorded as a “fail” without impacting GPA.
However, students who are failing a class in which they have assignments with zero scores before March 12 could make up that work to bring their grades to a passing level in those classes. Deadline for all make-up work is the last week in May.
As in the elementary, staff have cleaned out lockers and a pick-up time will be announced.
Laptop returns will also be scheduled for a date after which online work is suspended.
Huntington reiterated no plans can be set for prom or graduation until social gathering restrictions are lifted.
He said it would unfair to set an arbitrary date for prom and have students and parents make plans and spend money only to have prom canceled altogether.
He stressed, however, a graduation ceremony of some sort will definitely be held at some point. He said he has researched several possibilities, some virtual, some public, but he deferred any final decision pending changes in social gathering restrictions.
Huntington did share an informal survey he took among parents and students concerning graduation.
Of the 68 responses he received, 88.2 percent responded they did not want a virtual graduation ceremony, while 8.8 percent favored such a plan.
Huntington had offered possible dates for a traditional commencement if restrictions allowed.
Most favorable dates were July 19 or July 26. However, if a ceremony could not be held prior to August 9, 60.3 percent of respondents still wanted to hold a traditional ceremony at some point, while 36.7 percent opted for a virtual graduation.
Huntington noted most college-bound students will be off to college by early August, so some schools are even considering Homecoming as a time to include a graduation ceremony.
The two state athletic associations have already canceled all high school sports until June 1, Huntington said, and he doubted if baseball or softball teams would be fielded this year due to established benchmarks for lifting social gathering restrictions already set by the governor.