District finalizing Return to Learn plan

Communication right now from the governor and the Department of Education is that this will very much be a local decision." HCS Supt. of Schools Lynn Johnson

    HARLAN – The Harlan Community Schools is close to finalizing its Return to Learn plan as required by the Iowa Department of Education, and will submit by the July 1 deadline and share details with the district patrons shortly thereafter.
    The plan is critical to the success of districts as they look to get back to learning following spring shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are designed to help the district meet any challenges that lie ahead.  Plans include one or a combination of remote learning, in-person learning and hybrid models for K-12 school districts.
    HCS Superintendent of Schools Lynn Johnson said a district leadership team and committees were formed and have been working since May on addressing seven key areas of the plan, which include leadership and infrastructure, safety and health, social/emotional, Iowa standards and equity, and data.
    “Those committees have been meeting for over a month on a weekly basis, and some of the research and review they’ve been doing will help us develop the plan,” said Johnson.
    Generalities regarding the plan can be shared soon, but the specifics are being fine-tuned, Johnson said.  
    “Our goal would be by the July board meeting, or potentially a little bit sooner, we would have the specific plans in place and we’ll be able to share those with the board, and the board then would engage with the district leadership team to make decisions or announcements on how we intend to start our year in August,” Johnson said.

    The district recently conducted surveys of parents/guardians and staff about returning to school in the fall.  Results overwhelmingly were in favor of sending students back to school in-person, and staff offered few barriers to that in-person learning model.
    School officials did say, however, that since the surveys were conducted, Shelby County has seen a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, and results are fluid and could change from day to day.
    The district continues to work on remote learning, in-person learning and hybrid plans for the 2020-21 school year.  “It’ll have a local flavor,” said Johnson.  “We will have all three of those plans in our arsenal.
    “Communication right now from the governor and the Department of Education is that this will very much be a local decision, and it will be based upon the dynamics of the local area at the time.”
    Officials said the goal is to keep students and staff safe, while continuing to provide quality instruction.


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