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Learning activities, resources for families impacted by school closures

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Viewer photo: At-home learning

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- As Iowa schools remain closed until at least April 12th, school districts across the state have set up resources for families to help keep their students engaged in learning.

Schools in Iowa cannot mandate online learning because of equity issues. However, public school districts provide voluntary learning activities but it needs to be as accessible as possible for students with disabilities and students whose first language is not English.

KWWL News 7 asked you, our viewers what challenges you face and what parents have done to continue their children's education.

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From arts and crafts to Youtube virtual field trips and resources such as Challenge to Challenge Eastern Iowa parents are getting creative when it comes to keeping their kids engaged in learning.

However, some parents, who may still have to go into work, want extra guidance.

Grant Wood Area Education Agency's Chief Administrator, John Speer said to aim for critical thinking activities.

"We know that when students leave school in May and they come back in August, there's a summer slide in most students. And this, I think could be a similar type of experience like that," said Speer.

That's why Grant Wood and districts such as Cedar Rapids Community Schools have set up online resource centers for all grade levels.

One of Grant Wood's resources is a Facebook page called The Carpool Lane with tips and suggestions with activities to do with students.

Cedar Rapids Community School District created a landing page with everything food and nutrition information to learning activities. (Access that page, here)

"Anything that parents can do to actively engage their students in thinking, critical thinking reading, writing, math, at home, will help limit the amount that they maybe they lose," said Speer.

Cedar Rapids Community School's Director of Communication, Akwi Nji said the district has also included mental health resources to help parents as much as possible.

"We don't want parents to feel like they're suddenly responsible for homeschooling their children, that's not what we want. We want them to make sure that they're keeping their children and their families safe and healthy that's priority number one," said Nji.

One of the biggest challenges for districts is to keep all resources accessible for everyone, a mandate from the Iowa Department of Education.

The I.D.E. sent out guidance to districts that said, "Posting a list of resources that may be used would be considered an educational opportunity as no instruction is provided. If you post a list of resources, consider whether it is universally designed for accessibility by all families and students. For example, a reading list should include books for all levels of readers. Websites that students and parents can access should be supplemented with sites accessible by those with disabilities, and also available in other languages. Districts are encouraged to add contact information for those families who may need additional supports."

"They're really worried about equity. One, do all students have the hardware at home to do it and two, do they have internet access" said Speer.

Concerns over internet access is another reason some districts are also working to provide paper hand-outs at meal sites that start next week.

"So priority number one really started on Monday is just the meals. After that, we're going to figure out logistics perhaps of including with those meals printed out materials that students could take home with them," said Nji.

Meals pick-up sites will begin Monday for CRCSD's for any child 18-years and younger.

Meal sites will be open from 10:30 to 1:00 p.m. and families can pick up two meals, breakfast, and a hot lunch.

Pick-up sites include:

  • Arthur, Grant, Grant Wood, Hoover, Johnson, Taylor, Wright, Roosevelt, & Nixon (addresses can be found here)
  • More meal sites can be found through Grant Wood, here

"It doesn't matter if you live in the district, or if you're open enrolled or what district you attend. If you go to a food site, you can have food, you don't have to be involved in the free reduced food program," said Speer.

CRCSD has also partnered with the Gazette to offer learning activities in the Penny Saver.

Speer and Nji said districts are still waiting on more guidance from the Iowa Department of Education on what is and is not acceptable to provide to students and what accommodations need to be met.

If you have a child with a disability NJI said to try to keep a consistent schedule.

The class time does not need to be made up according to Governor, Kim Reynolds.

The Linn Mar Community School District has also provided learning activities on its website, those can be found here.

  • CRCSD News & Updates, here
  • CRCSD Learning Plan Resources, here
  • CRCSD Food & Nutrition Resources, here
  • CRCSD Health Services, here

The Marion Independent School District will also start pick-up meal sites next week. information about that can be found here.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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