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Local

NCSD extends fully remote learning period

Students not likely to return to hybrid model learning until after Thanksgiving

Knowing the county’s 14-day positivity rate is still above 20 percent and understanding that fully remote learning has placed a strain on families, administrators of the Newton Community School District were “disappointed” to announce they would be submitting a second waiver to the state to extend off-site instruction.

Students will be working from home through end of day on Nov. 25, NCSD Superintendent Tom Messinger said in a letter to families.

“I understand the strain this is placing on many families,” he said. “I also know each school is handling the situation differently. We are working to bring our students back. Our focus is the education of the kids and our goal remains having our kids in our classrooms.”

To reach that goal, the district is encouraging families and students to continue practicing social distancing and to regularly wash their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. Messinger also asked people should remain home if they are not feeling well or have a fever.

“Your assistance can make a difference in the speed at which we return to on-site learning,” he said.

Originally, the Newton school district was approved for temporary continuous/remote learning from Nov. 6 until the end of day Nov. 13. As a result, student activities were suspended, too. Messinger told families he would reevaluate the situation by Nov. 12 and determine the status of the district’s learning model.

Upon reevaluation, the district felt it best to submit another waiver. By the time the waiver meets its expiration date on Nov. 25, students will have entered Thanksgiving break. Since Nov. 30 will serve as a remote instruction day, students will not be in the building until Dec. 1.

However, Newton News previously reported the school board approved changes to the district’s Return-to-Learn Plan that would allow students two learning options by the start of December: an on-site hybrid model where remote learning only takes place on Monday, or a fully remote model.

By the start of the second semester on Jan. 26, 2021, the Newton school district plans to return to a full-time schedule of on-site learning. Some students who have “demonstrated success” in remote learning may still participate in instruction at home if they have a medical waiver for themselves.

Messinger also told families the district’s average number of adults and students out with COVID-19-related absences is still above averages from previous weeks. He also noted Jasper County’s 14-day positivity rate is still above 20 percent. As of Sunday, the state’s rate was 21.4 percent.

The superintendent also acknowledged there may be some people who have not been able to get tested. Nevertheless, Messinger said he will continue to monitor data and be in communication with public health officials to make the best decisions for students, staff, families and the community.

“Please know I have those about this in great detail,” Messinger said. “I want to make sure our data trends are truly going in the right direction. I do not want to bring our students back when the data is not clearly supporting it. It would cause more chaos to shift back and forth between models.”

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

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