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MCSD COVID-19 Communication Updates (most recent update: 5/15/2020)

COVID-19 Communication Updates
From the Office of the Superintendent

Scroll down for previous updates.

Updated: May 15, 2020

Planning for Re-Entry

I hope this finds your families safe and healthy. If your family does have an illness or other health issues, be assured you are in our thoughts. These are challenging times on so many fronts. I understand the anxiety felt in the community about when things will return to some sense of a known future. A question that is being addressed in our nation, state, and in the MCSD is what will the new school year bring? 

The Muscatine School District has begun the work of answering that question as three groups begin to work on a plan to address the following start-up issues: curriculum and instruction, special population needs, and operational procedures. These committees are going to provide a framework for how the district adapts our resources, personnel, and teaching models to a COVID-19 world. The depth of the conversations regarding these issues, the integrity of the people doing the work, and the commitment to serving our students should leave every Muskie proud. There are no pre-packaged plans for how schools will open in the fall. However, there is a developing common idea of what the landscape may look like in August. 

Last Friday, a Zoom meeting was held by the Iowa Department of Education. It would be easy to criticize the State of Iowa for the lack of specific guidance being provided schools. It must be recognized they are also in unchartered waters: both educationally and politically. I think the Department of Education is making a great effort to outline what may be encountered in Fall 2020.

Districts are recommended to plan for a possible different start of the year. A hybrid model may become an alternative avenue to open our school doors. This may mean all students do not come back at the same time. A split weekly schedule with some students coming one day and others doing at-home learning would decrease the number of students needing transportation and classroom size on any given day. The need to look at how at-home learning can be enhanced through traditional materials and electronic materials will need to be explored. 

Cafeterias may not be used for breakfast and lunch to avoid larger groups mingling. Eating in smaller, confined areas such as classrooms may become the best option. Activities that bring together large groups of students or multiple classrooms may need to be rethought and reconfigured. Flexibility in problem solving and nimbleness of response will be critical moving forward.

In order to keep everyone informed of the work being done, the District is making every attempt to be transparent. The Return to Learn Committee’s full group meetings are being recorded and can be accessed on our Return to Learn site on the district web page (under the tab “For Parents and Students”). The resources being used to guide the committee work can also be found on this site. The plan format is on-site with on-going information as to the specific problem and responses available in real-time.

Obviously everyone cannot be directly involved in the committee work. I encourage everyone to visit the site and to keep abreast of the progress. As the work moves forward, each committee will be using a vetting group to provide a critical evaluation and review of the problems and responses. This vetting groups will include MCSD school board members, certified and classified staff, parents, students, and community members.

We are Muskie Strong. That means we will work together for what is best for our students, our staff, and our community. The safety of everyone in our buildings is paramount to having an appropriate start to the 2020-2021 school year. We will stand together, albeit six feet apart, to do our part.   I appreciate the work and sacrifice our families are making to manage this difficult time. We will get through this and be stronger and more resolute for the effort.

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: April 28, 2020

I hope this finds everyone well. The district staff has worked hard to find solutions to bring this school year to closure. Unfortunately, the work of managing the on-going COVID-19 situation does continue. MCSD will be moving forward to develop a re-entry plan for staff and students for the 2020-21 school year. The absolute situation for the start of the new school year is still fluid and will need to be adjusted as guidance from the state and public health becomes available. However, the need to begin the planning for how and when school will resume must begin now.

The re-entry plan will have three components: curriculum and assessment, special populations’ needs, and operations. Each of these areas will be assigned chairpersons who will work with a representation of district staff. A general outline of the committee tasks is provided. 

PK-12 Curriculum and Assessment  

Committee members: instructional coaches, selected building principals, classroom teachers, SPED teachers. Additional membership as needed.

  1. Identify Incoming assessments to be used to gauge current individual student gaps.
  2. Modification of curriculum to blend the missing 4th quarter of the 2019-20 school year with the 1st quarter of the 2020-21 school year.
  3. Develop a model for remediation/enrichment for individual students as determined by the start of the year assessments.
  4. Determine a model, if feasible, for on-line learning as viable required learning in the event of future schooling disruptions caused by the pandemic.
  5. Other issues and concerns that may arise within the scope of this committee.

PK-12 Special Populations

Committee members: SPED teachers, Title 1 teachers, ELL teachers, At-Risk teachers, counselor representation, nurses, family navigators, and selected building principals. Additional membership as needed.

  1. Develop a model and protocols for SPED student needs from IEP requirements, classroom modifications, classroom support, and assessment of current learning status (academic and behavior).
  2. Develop a model of support for at-risk students. This group of students would include students with poor attendance, social-emotional needs, health needs, and family difficulties (including, but not limited to homelessness and food security).
  3. Develop a model to provide appropriate mental health supports and access.
  4. Other issues and concerns that may arise within the scope of this committee.

Operations

Committee members: Directors of Finance, Human Resources, and Food Service, Transportation, and Building and Grounds, selected building principals, HS activities director, a school board representative, classroom teachers, and nurses. Additional membership as needed.

  1. Develop a revised school calendar for the 2020-21 school year. Possible revisions could include an earlier start date and floating break schedules in response to possible future school disruptions. The calendar would not require additional teacher contract days.
  2. Develop cleaning and other safety protocols for a re-opening and continued operation.
  3. Develop a procedure for food service, if an early start date and gradual re-entry were to occur.
  4. Develop a model to onboard new staff and health safety training (in particular COVID-19) for all staff.
  5. Develop a model for the safe transportation of students considering social distancing and bus capacity.
  6. Develop a protocol, procedures, and plan for resumption of activity and athletic programs.
  7. Other issues and concerns that may arise within the scope of this committee.

The intent of this plan is to have each committee finish a draft report/recommendation by June 5th. The school board will critically review the components of the plan on June 8th. The committee chairs will use the three committee reports to draft a final, unified draft of the re-entry plan which will be submitted to the Iowa Department of Education by July 1, 2020.

Again, I want to thank everyone for the support our parents and community have provided the school district. Stay Muskie Strong!

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent  


Updated: April 17, 2020

Governor Reynolds just announced the closure of schools through the end of this school year. I know this was a difficult decision for her to make, and a difficult decision for school staff, students, and parents to hear. I do believe it was the right decision to make.

The Muscatine Community School District has started the work of determining the process for final grades, end of the year conversations with parents, and graduation. In the next two weeks, the district will be sharing with parents and students how the year will end and student progress recorded. I want to assure all parents that no student will be retained or failed due to the COVID-19 closure. Everything will be done to ensure that students are in a position to move forward at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The continuous learning model will continue to add learning modules up to the Memorial Day weekend. The website will continue to be posted throughout the summer. It is to be determined if an online summer school will be able to be provided.

The use of online learning opportunities does create inequity for some elementary students due to a lack of an electronic device.  The current level of public health restrictions has made it difficult to do a wide distribution and training. The district is working on a plan to make devices available for students in need, with priority to students in grades 2-6. (Grades 7-12 have a unit available.) As that plan is finalized and it is safe to distribute, the district will provide additional information.

MCSD will be working on a plan for re-engaging students back to school next year. Teachers and principals will be working to adjust curriculum based on the needs of students when they re-enter school. That plan must be completed by July 1, 2020, and will be shared with all parents. Again, I want to assure students and parents that our driving mission is to be ready for our students wherever they may be in the learning continuum.

The Governor is also waiving the start date restrictions for the 2020-21 school year. The district will be looking at options for starting the year early in order to shorten the school gap created by the closure. The number of teacher contract days and student contact days would not necessarily increase from past years, but calendar adjustments could be made to accommodate an early start date.

We will continue to move forward together as a community. I pledge the district will be transparent in our planning to overcome challenges. Most importantly, I wish everyone’s family peace and safety during this health crisis. Take care of your families, check on neighbors, and take good care of yourself. We will get through this.

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: April 8, 2020

Muskie Enriched Learning Launches Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020, will mark the opening of the Muskie Enriched Learning project. Each school will be communicating with parents on how to access off-line resources, as well as the online lessons. The district is also aware that access to the internet is not a universal service for all families in our community. 

Partnership with Muscatine Power and Water

Muscatine is a great community with a lot of businesses willing to step up and help when our students need assistance. Muscatine Power and Water has done just that as we enter the online enrichment project. MCSD has a genuine and heartfelt sense of gratitude and is pleased to announce  MPW’s help in bringing internet access to more of our students.

Based on analysis of areas most in need of internet services, Muscatine Community College and Muscatine Community School District has partnered with Muscatine Power and Water to provide free WI-FI coverage for areas on the MCC campus, the Jefferson Elementary parking area, and the Franklin Elementary campus. Public wi-fi at MCC is active. Jefferson and Franklin are in process.

In addition, Muscatine Power and Water has a special internet and router offer for homes with school-aged children who do not have internet service with MPW. The promotion is for 3 months (which gets us well past the end of the school year) with options for continuing service afterward. MPW is limiting, where possible, in-home installs due to COVID-19, but many customers have been doing self-installs with MPW’s Helpdesk walking them through the steps. 

If you do not have internet access at your home for your children,  please contact MPW for a special COVID-19 student package at 563-263-2631.

River Bend’s Mobile Food Pantry

Next Tuesday, April 14, 2020, is the monthly mobile food pantry at the Muscatine School’s Administration Center, 2900 Mulberry Avenue. (Please note: This month there will be TWO mobile food pantry opportunities, the 14th, and the 28th.) Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. This will be a “grab-n-go” pantry with the food items already boxed and ready to be picked up. Parents will not enter the building but drive under the carport and volunteers will bring the boxed items to the vehicles. In order to keep our volunteers and families safe, the food pantry is forgoing the need for parents to pre-register during the COVID-19 closure. For a list of all food distribution sites and opportunities, go HERE.

Please Continue Social Distancing

We recognize that as the days start to get warmer and the closure continues, it will become harder to stay home. It is imperative that we remain diligent and continue with social distancing and staying home in order to keep our families and friends safe and healthy. I know as Muskies we have the fortitude to weather the storm and do the right thing for ourselves, our loved ones, and the Muskie community at-large. We will come out of this stronger as a community! Stay the course, Muskies! 

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: April 2, 2020

SCHOOL CLOSED THROUGH APRIL 30, 2020
Governor Reynolds has announced Iowa schools will remain closed through April 30, 2020, due to the COVID-19 situation. Muscatine Community School District has begun the work for the Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities. Additional information regarding access and learning modules will be provided by your child’s principal within the next week. This program is slated to begin on April 13th. The district greatly appreciates the work being done by our teachers and administrators to make this opportunity a reality for our students.

FOOD DISTRIBUTION LIST
In an effort to provide a list of all known food distribution sites for MCSD students, families, and the community at large, district staff has put together a LIST for you in one location. Please select the link to view information about Bags of Blessings distribution (this is a new protocol), middle and high school Muskie Locker bags distribution (new), and a new distribution protocol for the upcoming River Bend Mobile Food Pantry. Also included in this list are food distribution sites for our community members who do not have children in the school district.

Take care Muskie Families! 

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: March 31, 2020

Continuous Learning Model

I hope this finds everyone and their families, near and far, in good health. You may have heard President Trump recommend that social distancing guidelines should continue through April 30, 2020. While waiting for Iowa Governor Reynolds’ guidelines, MCSD is moving forward with a continuous learning model for our students. Staff have begun this week in planning lessons and activities that will help bridge the gap during the COVID-19 closure.  The district received state guidance late Friday afternoon as to how to proceed. The state provided two options. The first option is a voluntary, enrichment model, and the second option is a required participation model. The second option requires the program to meet specific qualifications from staff training to specific curricular requirements. At this time, the process to meet a required program may not be practical.

This does not mean we should not have a learning model based on the state guidance for the voluntary enrichment model. Each building is working on processes ranging from lesson design, curricular connection, and communication strategies.  The principals and teachers in the district are working very hard to make the first set of lessons available the week of April 13, 2020, should we not return on this date.

The lessons will be available online, with non-electronic lessons available upon request wherever possible. Additional information will be coming from your child’s principal in the coming days.

Again, this is an attempt to fill a gap. It does not replace the learning that occurs in a classroom with other students and a teacher. This is a situation no one has dealt with within the last century. Parents and students should know that students’ educational futures will not be put into jeopardy due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. When students and teachers come together, whenever that happens, the classrooms will reflect where students are at coming in and not where they would have been if not for the closure. Together we will get through this, and together we will find the best path forward when we reconvene.

Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: March 26, 2020

MCSD has committed to share new information as it becomes available. At this time, there is little new to report that is not covered in the news media. 

COORDINATION OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

The District is working with over 30 other community organizations to coordinate services and resources through Aligned Impact Muscatine (AIM) which is working in conjunction with United Way of Muscatine. The District is in frequent communication with Public Health and other state agencies.\

The community should be aware of the efforts of Trinity Muscatine Hospital. Trinity Muscatine has a COVID-19 plan in place and has operationalized that plan. The hospital is treating patients with appropriate and efficient practices and care. Trinity Muscatine is a valuable resource in our community and their efforts to serve during this health crisis is greatly appreciated.

ONLINE LEARNING/EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

The Iowa Department of Education has developed a statewide task force to develop a process for online learning for schools. The first meeting was held Thursday with a sense of the urgency for this and the reality of the enormous undertaking to develop a meaningful electronic education experience. The district will be awaiting further guidance.

MCSD will be working to develop a larger list of educationally engaging resources for parents to access. The goal is to have that available by the end of next week. Again, this is first and foremost a health crisis. The district urges everyone to follow the guidelines for personal hygiene and social distancing. This is the best way to ensure the safety of your family and the quickest route back to normalcy.

GRAB-N-GO MEALS

The district’s meal program is being used by a large number of our students. Wednesday the district served 972 meals (breakfast and lunch) to 486 students. For more information on the meal sites and times go HERE. *A new food distribution site has been added at Cedar Hills Apartments and times have changed at two of our non-school sites. **The USDA just released new guidelines. Effective immediately, children do not have to be present to receive meals at the meal sites.

FOOD PANTRY/BAGS OF BLESSINGS/OTHER FOOD NEEDS

The district’s monthly food pantry (River Bend Mobile Food Pantry) will continue as scheduled on April 14th from 4-6 p.m. at our district central office location at 2900 Mulberry Avenue. Instead of requiring families to come into the central office building to pick up their food, we will pre-box the food to allow families to drive up and pick up the food items. To provide further support to our families, we are also exploring moving the monthly food pantry to bi-weekly during our school shut down.

The district is grateful for the additional food donations from many of our wonderful community organizations. We would like to offer starting Friday, March 27th the opportunity for families to receive additional food. If you need additional food please contact Jeff Keith at jeff.keith@mcsdonline.org or Mike McGrory at mike.mcgrory@mcsdonline.org and we will arrange a time to deliver the food. 

The Bags of Blessings program will continue during the school closure. Families who have signed up for this program will be able to pick up their bags every Friday from 11 a.m. -12 p.m. at the MCSD Administration Center or Jefferson Elementary locations. 

STAYING INFORMED

Governor Kim Reynolds has been holding daily press briefings and the public can access those on the Governor’s Facebook page or via YouTube (search in YouTube “Governor Reynolds Press Conference Livestream”). The community is encouraged to stay abreast of all information possible as the COVID-19 situation is very fluid and with changes daily. 

Take care Muskies. Check on each other as much as possible (virtually, phone, text). Stay connected with your support system of friends, family, and colleagues.

Jerry Riibe
Superintendent


Updated: March 24, 2020

Today marks day two of MCSD’s school closure due to the COVID-19 response. During uncertain times it is the not knowing what comes next which can cause anxiety. No one should assume anyone has all the answers to the multitude of questions. The district will attempt to keep the community as informed as possible with communications twice per week. Sometimes, there may not be much new information to share, but what we know will be shared.

Future Planning

Planning for the near future is difficult due to the uncertainty of where our exact landing point will be. Currently, there are two possibilities. 

First, we convene on April 13th having missed 15 days of instruction. Hopefully, the state testing is suspended this year, which could free up to five days of instruction. The loss of time in this scenario can be adjusted and the current school calendar would end as published. Depending on the recommendation of Iowa Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office, large gatherings may still be regulated.

If schools do not convene on April 13th, the planning becomes more complicated. In essence, the break from the current schedule begins to look more like the break taken for summer. In this case, there are a number of possibilities to explore which include: 1) if schools could reconvene in early May, the current calendar can be extended, with current seniors finishing at the end of May, and 2) if schools were to reopen in June, an abbreviated fourth quarter could run for three to four weeks for grades PK-11. Again, these are possibilities and should not be considered definite solutions.

An important thing for everyone to keep in mind is this is a bump in the road and not a permanent detour for our children’s education. The teachers and principals in MCSD will adjust, modify, and connect our students with the best possible education situation. The next 7-10 days will provide a lot of information about what the next 90 days may look like.

Learning Opportunities for Students

Parents are also encouraged to review the sites provided on the district web page as possible engagement activities for students. The list will grow as parents and teachers make suggestions. This is also a great time to teach the hands-on skills of learning: food preparation using a recipe, cleaning, organizing, and sorting, or simple home fix-it projects.

Grab-N-Go Breakfast and Lunches

On Monday, the district provided 335 meals to students through the Grab-n-Go locations. That number is expected to increase. The Food Service personnel, lead by Alisha Eggers, deserve the appreciation of the community for providing this service.  Please refer to the sites available if this is a service your students need to access.

Stay safe Muskies!

Sincerely,
Jerry Riibe
Superintendent of Schools



Updated: March 19, 2020

These are unique times presenting challenges including health, education, economics, and social order. There are more questions than answers for all of us. However, we will take on these challenges together and do our best to move forward together. This is an opportunity for all of us to practice the core of citizenship which is being responsible for our individual behavior and for the well being of our community, state, and nation.

This communication will provide our best information to date. Please understand this situation is very fluid and changes as information streams from federal and state sources and data regarding the virus become known. Our plan is to communicate at a minimum weekly to our Muskie Family.

FOOD THAT’S IN WHEN SCHOOL IS OUT

The Muscatine Community Schools are committed to providing food for those students in need. This communication will provide information regarding locations, times, and procedures for our meal sites: MEAL SITE INFORMATION and MENU

IOWA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION GUIDANCE AND AT-HOME EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

The Iowa Department of Education has provided additional guidance to school districts. You can read that guidance HERE. In addition, a LINK to an article from the Omaha World-Herald has some parent information regarding how to keep children engaged within a schedule at home. The article also provides links to various on-line resources that may be accessed by parents to provide some educational experiences for their children.

The following are some points of information:

CALENDAR ADJUSTMENT

  1. There is an official calendar change for Monday, April 13, 2020. Originally, this day had been scheduled as a no school day for students and staff. If school is convened at the end of this initial closure, school will resume on Monday, April 13, 2020.
  2. If school is convened on April 13, teachers will make the adjustments needed in their classrooms to accommodate the loss of 15 days of instruction. The state has waived the minimum number of hours needed for school operation, so Muscatine Community School District’s students will not make up the 15 days missed. At this time, no one knows if schools will definitely open on April 13.  It is important we do not get ahead of the information we currently are being given.

SCHOOL CREDITS/GRADUATION/PROM

  1. The Iowa Department of Education has given local districts latitude in granting credits for courses and for graduation. Again, if school resumes on April 13th, it will be minor adjustments, if any. However, if the closure is extended, the district will develop a protocol to ensure students are not penalized by the closure. The district, as recommended by the Dept of Education, will use latitude to ensure seniors are able to graduate and be able to pursue post-secondary plans. The granting of credit for non-seniors, will also be handled in a way that will not impede educational progress.
  2. Questions regarding Prom and Commencement are important for our students and parents. At this time, there can not be any definitive answers.  These decisions will be impacted by when schools are reopened and when the recommendations for large group gatherings are lifted.

STATE TESTING

At this time, the State of Iowa has suspended state testing. There will be additional information dependent upon when schools are reconvened by the Department of Education.

ONLINE LEARNING

The Department of Education has reminded districts that on-line learning is an option only if districts can ensure all students have access, special education services can be provided, and it is a curriculum/program that has been approved by the Department of Education. The reality is almost all Iowa schools will not be able to meet those requirements. (Please see the linked news story above regarding home activities).

SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES

Special Education services are dependent upon general education services being delivered. While schools are closed, special education services are also suspended.

During the closure period, all buildings are closed to the public. Access will be limited to essential school personnel. 


Previous communications:

COVID-19 UPDATE – School Closure Announced (March 16, 2020)

COVID-19 Procedures and Protocols starting March 23, 2020 (March 12, 2020)

International Travel for Students – COVID-19 (March 7, 2020)

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