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Cedar Rapids Community School District wraps up family community feedback sessions

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Parents were weighing in on the Cedar Rapids Community School District's 'Return to Learn' plan this week during community feedback sessions.

Today's meetings at Taft Middle school marked the firth and six-session held by the district. Parents could attend in-person or join virtually.

Translation in Spanish and Swahili was also offered through the virtual platform for parents who do not speak English as their first language.

The sessions were a chance for parents to ask questions and get a more in-depth look at the plan for the 2020-21 school year and the safety protocols in place.

During a question and answer segment at the 11 a.m. meeting, several parents asked about how the district planned to handle keeping masks on kids and what the protocol would be if a student or staff member tested positive for the virus.

Officials stressed that some guidance would need to come from parents and teachers about the importance of the masks. However, shields would also be offered as an option for all students and may be an easier option for elementary-aged kids.

The sessions went over the current protocols and curriculum styles for both in-person and virtual learning.

Deputy Superintendent, Nicole Kooiker, stressed the district is trying to be flexible and provide options so families can decide what's best for them.

"For those families that really have to go to work every day and those who are those essential workers, we know that it's really hard to go to work every day and come home and try to educate your kids. We also know that there's clear health guidelines and we really appreciate that partnership with Linn County Public Health, reviewing our plans giving us recommendations," said Kooiker.

Administrative staff explained the curriculum for in-person and virtual education will mirror each other so students can seamlessly switch back in forth if needed.

This is also how the district has planned ahead to handle an outbreak. If a student or teacher tests positive for the virus, they will quarantine for 14-days according to public health guidance. Other students in the same 'cohort' or class group will be notified with the help of Linn County Public Health contact tracers if exposed.

Those students can switch over to virtual instruction until the quarantine is completed.

High school students are already issued chrome books but now the district will also provide chrome books for middle school and elementary school students.

However, the laptops will remain at school for elementary students unless the opt for virtual instruction. Hotspots will also be provided for families without internet access.

This year, the district was also approved to provide a new completely online option called the Virtual Academy.

Kooiker said the academy has its own curriculum that is similar to the district's typical core curriculum but has different teachers.

"It will not be that synchronous learning that's happened in the classroom. So our other virtual programs will be the teacher in the classroom, teaching that core content, and they'll be able to do it virtually and face to face. Whereas the Academy is just a separate program run through Ingenuity Classes. It still has teachers and all those components but another, different option for families," said Kooiker.

This option Kooiker said is good for families who want a completely online option and are not worried about wanting to switch back and forth for in-person classes.

Today, the district will also put a frequently asked questions sheet on its website, compiling all of the questions asked during the sessions.

The district also reminded families they should take their student's temperature every morning before going to school. The students will also be monitored throughout the day for symptoms.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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