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Local

NCSD developing ‘return-to-learn’ plan

Guidelines, preparations in the works for 2020-21 fall semester

Bret Miller, the Director of Teaching and Learning at Newton Community School District, and Woodrow Wilson Principal Todd Schuster, left, work together to issue Chromebooks to K-8 students in front of Beg Middle School. The district loaned out around 1,000 Chrome Books to to assist in the continuous learning program.
Bret Miller, the Director of Teaching and Learning at Newton Community School District, and Woodrow Wilson Principal Todd Schuster, left, work together to issue Chromebooks to K-8 students in front of Beg Middle School. The district loaned out around 1,000 Chrome Books to to assist in the continuous learning program.

Experience that educators obtained during the statewide school closures will be crucial to the reopening of Newton Community School District campuses for the fall semester. Administrators are already preparing guidelines and procedures for their teachers and returning students.

During the Monday night school board meeting, NCSD Director of Teaching and Learning Bret Miller said where the real heavy lifting comes from is developing a “functional return-to-learn plan.” These strategies will hopefully help kickstart back-to-school learning by late August.

Miller said state officials want districts to prepare for three models of instruction: on-site education, remote learning and a hybrid approach.

The latter model will combine remote and on-site styles of schooling in case the pandemic forces some students to stay home.

Miller said administrators will look at a couple hybrid models “to make sure all kids continue to receive high quality instruction.”

School districts will have to submit an official plan for required continuous learning by July 1, Miller said.

During the closure, the Newton school district adopted voluntary educational enrichment opportunities for students. However, this style of remote learning was entirely optional. When school resumes this fall, that will no longer be the case. Students will opt into required continuous learning opportunities.

“People have responded very well in a pinch, but now we’ve got time to plan,” Miller said. “And our teachers are doing a great job of that.”

The school district is finalizing its “overarching return-to-learn team” and starting to identify some of the subcommittees needed to take care of specified work. In addition to oversight, Miller said the team will look at health and safety and infrastructure needs to operate effectively.

Even though the state has allowed schools the option to open classes earlier than Aug. 23, Miller does not anticipate Newton will choose to do so.

“(Because) you would have to add days or hours to your calendar that is approved,” Miller said. “So I would tell you — at this point — we do not foresee coming to the board and saying we want to start all students or big picture start before the 24th. But we want to keep all options on the table for serving kids.”

If there is a “theme” for this upcoming school year, Miller said it would be maximize instructional time and provide high quality education. The school district wants to meet the needs of teachers preparing for learning but also do everything it can to keep those educators teaching in front of students.

“Whether that’s virtually or in person,” Miller said. “We want to provide as much instruction as we possibly can to make up for the time lost.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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