All Glenwood Schools Go To Remote Learning

For the first time since last Spring, the Glenwood Community School District is going fully remote learning.
After shutting down in-person learning at Glenwood Community High School and Northeast Elementary last week, on Friday the district pivoted to remote learning at the Glenwood Middle School and West Elementary School on Monday. All of Glenwood’s buildings will reopen to students Nov. 30. School activities and sports are scheduled to resume Nov. 25.

GCSD Superintendent Devin Embray said the decision to shut down in-person learning didn’t so much come down to the district’s number of positive cases as its “extremely high number” of quarantined students and staff. The district currently has 53 positive cases of COVID- 19 but more than 340 students and staff district-wide are quarantining following possible exposures.

The middle school and West have about 125 quarantining students and staff quarantining currently, according to Embray.

“Looking at where we are in the year, coming up on Thanksgiving, and trying not to have a spike at either of those buildings, we just felt it was in our best interest to go remote,” Embray said.

Embray met with his administrative team late Friday and after consulting Mills County Public Health the decision was made to go to fully remote learning district-wide until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mills County’s 14-day, rolling positivity rate is currently 26.3 percent. That number, along with the district’s 17 percent absenteeism rate, more than exceeds the Department of Education’s threshold to go to remote learning for up to 14 days. Embray said the district submitted its application to go remote on Friday and permission was granted Monday.

There’s been speculation Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education are considering addressing the sharp rise in cases at the state level. Rumors have swirled the governor is considering either shutting down activities at schools statewide or shuttering brick-and-mortar buildings all together through January to fight the recent spread of the virus.

Embray has heard those rumors and he isn’t ruling out Glenwood even extending its remote learning plan further than Nov. 30 but for now, he said, the district will stick to its current plan.

“We’re going to try and stay in as long as we can,” he said. “Now if the governor comes in and trumps us, then we’ll do what we can. Right now, this is more cautionary than it is reactionary. We’re trying to get out ahead of this at our other two buildings. We’re hopeful this can make an impact.”

As part of its remote learning plan the district is deploying its asynchronous online model, meaning teachers will post assignments and lectures online that students can complete on their own schedule. This also means the students that were enrolled in the district’s synchronous live option (SLO) – those students who do not have a documented medical issues but opted to “attend” classes virtually during the pandemic – will also move to asynchronous learning.

Embray said the decision to go to asynchronous was largely one of expedience for teachers, who have been taxed developing both in-person and on-line lesson plans simultaneously this fall.

“This gives them more time to put lessons together and pump them out remotely,” he said. “Trying to go live every hour of the day isn’t conducive to a good learning environment, especially from home. Our SLO kids are online all day long. Going to asynchronous is easier for the teachers to plan and the parents to plan because they don’t have to be on every minute of the day.”

In addition to having assignments and recorded lessons online, teachers will also be offering virtual “meet and greet” sessions for students to ask questions.

Embray said the frustrating fact of the district going to remote learning is that contact tracing has shown the majority of the district’s cases have not come in the schools. Most of the cases, he said, have come outside school, during activities and events off campus and on weekends with students and staff not avoiding crowds, maintaining social distance or wearing masks.

“People want to scream and yell and be upset about the school system but we haven’t tracked a lot of cases where kids have gotten it sitting in class less than six feet apart from each other,” Embray said. “It’s been activities or groups doing things. If everyone would mask and follow the other things, we may not be in remote right now.”


The Opinion-Tribune

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