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Return to Learn Plan

November 13, 2020

 

Updated Return-to-Learn Information for North Tama Schools

 

This update is being released following the board of education meeting on Thursday, November 12, 2020. The only changes to the plan are printed in RED in the section on Learning Models found on page 2.  

 

Please keep in mind that additional guidance from the state and our continually-changing local context may necessitate additions or changes to this document.  It continues to be North Tama’s goal to follow practices and offer models of learning that will both educate our students and keep our students and staff healthy and safe during the current global pandemic.  

 

LEARNING MODELS

 

The following instructional models are possible options which may be implemented during the 2020-2021 school year:

 

Long-Term Remote Learning

North Tama will offer the option of Long-Term Remote Learning for any family that prefers a home-based instructional experience for their child(ren) due to a compromised immune system or for any other reason. Students will be enrolled in an online curriculum program through the North Tama district and will be supported by one or more certified teachers, but learning will take place at home.  Instruction will be supervised and supported by a North Tama staff member.  Families needing support with internet access or remote learning devices should contact their child’s principal.  

 

While parents are encouraged to commit to an entire semester or an entire year in the program, please know that you may contact your child’s principal to discuss a possible change at any time during the year.

 

Short-Term Remote Learning

If/when warranted by state guidelines, the district will consider a temporary, short-term closure of a school building (PK-6 or 7-12) or the entire district accompanied by a move to Short-Term Remote Learning for all students during the period of the closure.  Under current guidelines, the state of Iowa will direct district closures of two weeks or less in duration; however, the state may consider extensions of such closures for additional periods not to exceed two weeks.  Remote learning will be directed by the North Tama teaching staff (the same teachers that would have been teaching students if that had been attending classes in-person) for the duration of the period of the short-term closure.  

This model will be implemented under the following circumstances:

  1. On “Snow Days” and other days when school is cancelled due to hazardous weather conditions. (Please note this will only be allowed by the state of Iowa through the expiration of the governor’s July 17, 2020 proclamation allowing remote learning on snow days.)
  2. When the Iowa Department of Education approves a short-term closure because state-established community transmission rates have been met or exceeded or for any other state-approved reason.  Current thresholds are as follows:
    1. County 14-day average positivity rate of 15% and 10% absenteeism rate (absent for any reason).
    2. County 14-day average positivity rate of 20%, regardless of absenteeism rate. 
  3. As allowed by the state guidance, short-term closures of up to two days may be approved by district administration while the Iowa Department of Education considers a short-term closure based on the state-established community transmission rates.  

 

NOTE:  On Thursday, November 12, the North Tama Board of Education passed a motion stating that, “If staffing becomes an issue, a special board meeting will be called to consider a possible short-term closure for remote learning.”

 

50% Capacity Hybrid Model

North Tama’s  50% capacity hybrid model combines a shortened in-person school week with at-home learning. Students are assigned to the “Red Team” or “White Team” cohort group, with cohort groups attending school on alternating days. Students residing in the same household are assigned to the same cohort group. Changes to cohort assignments may be made by the administration as enrollment changes occur. This model of learning accomplishes the goal of reducing the number of students in school facilities and buses to better facilitate social distancing. Furthermore, a reduced student/teacher ratio which facilitates more individualized instruction to accelerate learning.  

 

This model will be implemented under the following circumstances:

  1. Both buildings (PK-6 Elementary and 7-12 High School) started the year at 50% capacity. The PK-6 elementary school returned to 100% capacity on October 1, 2020. The 7-12 High School will return to 100% capacity on October 19, 2020.  
  2. If the number of COVID-positive cases in a building meets or exceeds 5% of the student population (only COVID-positive individuals will be counted in this calculation, including staff), that building will return to in-person instruction at 50% capacity for a period of 14 calendar days. 

 

NOTE:  On Thursday, November 12, the North Tama Board of Education passed a motion directing the school to resume in-person instruction following the 50% Capacity Hybrid learning model as soon as possible with this model continuing until the end of the first semester. The district will return to 50% capacity on Wednesday, November 18.  The projected final day of the first semester is Thursday, January 14.  

 

Operation at 100% Capacity

In this model, 100% of students will have the opportunity to attend on-site classes in-person on a daily basis (although some may still elect to engage in the Long-Term Remote Learning option and some may be learning at home due to quarantine).  Operating at 100% capacity does not mean that all school operations will return to the way things were done prior to the pandemic.  Numerous risk mitigation strategies will continue to be implemented under this model as outlined elsewhere in this plan.  

 

HEALTH AND SAFETY

 

Schools simply cannot guarantee that physical distancing can be met in all school settings throughout the entire school day, during school activities, or in transportation systems. North Tama is committed to implementing a wide range of preventative measures to reduce risk, including: 

 

  1. The following isolation and illness management practices will be followed:
    1. Students or staff members should remain home when sick. According to state guidelines, students or staff members with any high-risk symptom or two or more low-risk symptoms should stay home and seek an evaluation by a healthcare provider.
      1. High Risk Symptoms (Stay home & call your healthcare provider.)
  • New cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
    1. Low Risk Symptoms (Have two or more? Stay home & call your healthcare provider.)
       
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
     
    1. Those developing any high-risk symptom or two or more low-risk symptoms at school will be sent home. 
  • All parents should identify an alternative person as a “back-up plan” to pick up their child in case the parent cannot be reached, the parent is unavailable to pick up their child, or the parent’s workplace is more than 30 minutes from the school.  
  • Parents should ensure emergency contact information is updated, and should consider adding additional people to the emergency contact list. 
  • It is suggested that parents visit with their employers about the possible need to answer a phone call from the school during their work hours and/or leave work to pick up their child during this pandemic. Many employers are temporarily modifying policies due to the unique circumstances of the pandemic.  
    1. Students being sent home will be isolated prior to being picked up.
    2. When a student or staff member has been evaluated by a health care provider:
      1. ALTERNATIVE DIAGNOSIS:  If the student or staff member is diagnosed with an illness other than COVID-19, they may return to school after 24 hours with no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) and when symptoms are improving.  
      2. NEGATIVE COVID-19 DIAGNOSIS:  If the student or staff member tests negative for COVID-19 and does not receive an alternative diagnosis, they may return to school after 24 hours with no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) and when symptoms are improving.  
      3. POSITIVE COVID-19 DIAGNOSIS:  If the student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, notify the school administration immediately and follow the instructions of the administration and Tama County Public Health.  A protocol based on current guidance can be found under item #7: When a Student or Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID-19.   
    3. District staff will be prepared to screen body temperatures of students, staff, and visitors as they enter buses, buildings, and/or classrooms and throughout the day as needed. Please note:
      • CDC and the Iowa Department of Education do not recommend mass temperature screenings upon entry. North Tama’s plan for mass temperature screening will only be implemented as advised by Tama County Public Health during periods of heightened community transmission of COVID-19. If/when the plan for temperature screenings upon entry is implemented, this will be a locally-determined decision and not a requirement of the Iowa Department of Education.
      • Students, staff, and/or visitors with body temperatures measured at 100.4 degrees or higher will be denied entry or sent home.  
      • If a student’s body temperature is measured at 99.6 degrees or higher, parents will be notified. 

 

  1. The following cleaning and sanitization practices will be followed:
    1. A schedule of frequent cleaning and sanitization of surfaces in school facilities will be implemented following CDC guidance, with a focus on high-touch surface areas, the school cafeteria, concession stands, the school nurse’s office, and buses.   
    2. Students, teachers, and support staff may be asked to clean and sanitize their own work areas and/or equipment.  
      1. Appropriate cleaning supplies will be provided.  
      2. Appropriate cleaning practices will be taught. 

 

  1. Handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer will be taught and reinforced.
    1. CDC guidance for handwashing will be taught.
    2. Schedules for handwashing will be developed within classrooms.
    3. Classrooms equipped with sinks will be provided an ample supply of antibacterial soap.
    4. Additional hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed in common areas, building entry points, and classrooms that are not equipped with sinks. Dispensers will be well-supplied and refilled regularly.

 

  1. The personal use of face coverings by staff and students will be required.
    1. Students will be required to wear an acceptable face covering pursuant to the health/safety authority given to schools in Iowa Code; specifically, section 282.3. Please note that this is a locally-determined decision and not a requirement of the Iowa Department of Education.
      1. We recognize there are practical issues associated with face coverings, especially for younger students. We will work with young students to help them learn the importance of and the appropriate use of face coverings.  
      2. Accommodations may be provided to those students who have a legitimate religious or medical reason why they cannot wear a face covering. 
        1. Specific accommodations will be determined by district administration within 3 business days of receiving appropriate documentation of a legitimate religious or medical reason that a face covering cannot be worn by the student. (The district will need this time to confer with legal counsel and/or public health experts to determine appropriate accommodations and consider the possible effect on others in the school setting.)
        2. Parents may be asked to sign a release of information to allow the school and the school’s representatives to directly communicate with the child’s doctor in order to determine whether a legitimate medical reason exists and to determine appropriate accommodations.  
        3. Parents may be asked to submit a notarized Certification of Exemption from the District’s Mask Requirement, acknowledging their understanding that failure to use an appropriate face covering may increase the risk to their child, or others, of contracting, carrying, and spreading COVID-19 infection.
      3. Acceptable face coverings will be provided by the school but may also be brought from home.
        1. The district has provided students and staff with a cloth mask with a North Tama Redhawk logo. An additional supply of plain cloth masks may be available while supplies last for those who misplace or damage their Redhawk mask.   
        2. Disposable masks are available at the main entrance.  
        3. Any appropriate mask brought from home will be allowed. 
        4. IDPH no longer recognizes plastic face shields as an appropriate face covering.  Plastic face shields may be used by students/staff under the following circumstances:
          1. Along with a cloth or disposable mask as an additional protective measure.
          2. In certain circumstances plastic face shields may be allowed as an accommodation for those who are unable to wear a cloth or disposable mask (see #4aii above).  
      4. Students will be permitted to alternate between different face covering options during the day (school-provided mask, masks from home, disposable mask).
      5. Staff will coordinate opportunities for “mask breaks” for students at appropriate times when a 6+ foot social distance can be maintained.  
    2. All staff will be required to wear a face covering (cloth or disposable mask).  IDPH no longer recognizes plastic face shields as an appropriate face covering.  Plastic face shields may be worn in addition to a cloth or disposable mask as an additional precaution.  
      • A face covering is required during the regular school day and whenever working with other staff (during professional development, before and after school meetings, etc.)
      • As an additional measure of protection, staff may opt to consider wearing a face shield in addition to a cloth or disposable mask.  
      • To reduce “mask fatigue,” staff may: 
        1. Alternate face coverings during the work day.  
        2. Remove face coverings when working alone (when no other staff or students are in the room).  The face covering should be kept within reach at all times when the staff member is working alone so that it can be easily accessed if someone enters the room.  
        3. Take a brief “mask break” on occasion, but only when alone or maintaining a 6+ foot distance from others.  (The face covering should be kept within reach at all times during a break.)
    3. Outside visitors.  While outside visitors to the building will be limited during the school day, not all visitors can be excluded from the building.  For example, the district must allow entry to the state fire marshal, law enforcement, county food service inspectors, plumbers/other contractors completing emergency repairs, and some others.  When permitted, outside visitors will be asked to complete a self-screening for symptoms and will be required to wear a face covering.  

 

  1. Many routines and activities within the school will be modified to reduce possible exposure. This includes:
    1. Limiting visitors in school facilities.
    2. Teachers will seek ways to reduce or eliminate practices that require close proximity.
    3. While it cannot be guaranteed that physical distancing guidelines can be followed in all settings, teachers will seek ways to arrange classrooms to allow for the maximum allowable spacing between students within their classrooms.
    4. Reducing the number of students in the cafeteria at the same time by having some classes eat meals in classrooms or other assigned locations, with appropriate cleaning and sanitization between shifts.  
    5. Reducing, eliminating, or modifying all-school assemblies, multiple-class groupings, and field trips.  
    6. Reducing, eliminating, or modifying community use of school facilities.
    7. Reducing, eliminating, or modifying procedures for events such as open houses/orientations, parent nights, and parent/teacher conferences.  
    8. Posting signage in multiple locations on ways to stop the spread of illness, properly wash hands, and promote everyday protective measures.

 

  1. Student visits to the school nurse’s office will be limited, and nurse’s office protocols will be changed as follows:
    1. Additional staff will be trained and certified in proper medication administration, and medications may be administered to students in alternate locations.  
    2. Additional staff will be equipped to assist students with minor health-related issues at alternate locations.  
    3. Additional staff will be equipped to check student body temperatures at alternate locations. Please note:  
      1. CDC and the Iowa Department of Education do not recommend schools screen student and staff body temperatures upon entering the building. Temperature screenings will be conducted for anyone requesting attention from the school health office.  
        1. If a student’s body temperature is measured at 99.6 degrees or higher, parents will be notified.  
        2. If a student’s body temperature is measured at 100.4 degrees or higher, the student will be isolated and sent home within 30 minutes.
      2. An isolation room has been created adjacent to the nurse’s office.  This is intended to be a short-term isolation situation, while a student is waiting to be picked up by a parent or the parent’s designated back-up person.  

 

  1. When a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19:
    1. Positive students/staff should notify the school administration immediately. The school will notify Tama County Public Health and the contact tracing protocol will begin.  
      1. If the student or employee fails to notify the school, Public Health will eventually notify the school but there will be a delay.  This would delay the notification of close contacts, which could lead to additional transmission of the disease.  
    2. Positive students/staff should remain isolated at home while awaiting quarantine guidance from Tama County Public Health.  
    3. While North Tama will maintain confidentiality in received reports of any staff member or student having a communicable disease or illness, the school will:
      • Contact Tama County Public Health when a report has been received.  
      • Assist Tama County Public Health in identifying close contacts.  
  • The current definition of close contact (in non-healthcare and non-residential situations) is: Persons less than 6 feet away from an infectious person for more than 15 consecutive minutes AND the infectious person, the close contact, or both were not wearing a face covering during the interaction.  (Please note that TCPH follows a different definition when identifying close contacts within a household.)
    1. Enforce quarantines imposed by Tama County Public Health by excluding quarantined individuals from school until released from quarantine by public health.  
    2. Report relevant data in accordance with state confidentiality guidelines using an online dashboard.  (Email notifications to parents/staff upon the identification of new positive cases can no longer be sent due to the updated guidance on confidentiality.) 
    3. Follow any other recommendations from public health.
  • Positive students/staff should follow quarantine guidance from Tama County Public Health. 
  • Positive students/staff may return to school when released from quarantine by Tama County Public Health. 

 

  1. When an individual is identified as being in “close contact” with a COVID-19 positive individual:
    1. The school will provide Tama County Public Health with a list of close contacts.  
  • The current definition of close contact (in non-healthcare and non-residential situations) is: Persons less than 6 feet away from an infectious person for more than 15 consecutive minutes AND the infectious person, the close contact, or both were not wearing a face covering during the interaction.  (Please note that TCPH follows a different definition when identifying close contacts within a household.) Contact may occur in a classroom, lunchroom, during transportation to or from school, at practices or games, and during extracurricular activities.
    1. School officials will provide Tama County Public Health with the requested information to assist public health in determining which students and staff should be quarantined. 
    2. According to state guidelines, Individuals in quarantine due to “close contact” with a positive individual will be permitted to return to school as follows:
      1. Students
        1. If no symptoms develop, students can return to school 14 days from their last contact with the COVID-19 positive individual. 
        2. If symptoms develop, students should be evaluated by a health care provider.
        3. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they should be isolated for 10 days.
        4. If a student tests negative for COVID-19, they must still complete their 14-day quarantine before returning to school.
      2. Staff:
        1. Department of Education guidelines state that school staff may be considered critical personnel and can be allowed to return to work as long as they remain asymptomatic, especially if there are staffing issues.  
        2. North Tama is committed to the health and safety of students and staff.  Out of an abundance of caution, the district will make every effort to allow quarantined asymptomatic staff to complete quarantine periods directed by public health, despite the allowance made by the state of Iowa in #1 above. 
          1. Alternative arrangements may be made during this period, including work-from-home situations, especially when a substitute cannot be found. Decisions on possible early return from quarantine or work-from-home arrangements or alternative staff assignments for asymptomatic staff be made by the superintendent after consultation with the employee and the employee’s direct supervisor.
          2. In accordance with state guidelines, any asymptomatic staff member that is permitted to work during a quarantine period should take their temperature and screen for symptoms at the start and end of each day and wear a mask at work.
          3. If symptoms develop, they must report the symptoms, isolate immediately, and contact their healthcare provider for an evaluation. 
      3. Individuals Previously Positive (Staff or Student)
        1. According to state guidelines, those who have been previously diagnosed positive for COVID-19 within the past 12 weeks, and were identified as being in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, do not need to be quarantined.
        2. Individuals may be asked to provide documentation of a previous diagnosis in order to be allowed to return to school.  

 

CHANGES TO THIS PLAN

 

The district administration is authorized to make changes to this plan in order to meet new directives or guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Education, or Tama County Public Health officials.  These changes will take effect immediately but will only become permanent upon the approval of the Board of Education at the next regularly-scheduled meeting.