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Superintendent reports positives, challenges, and cautions about the unprecedented school year

Posted: Mon, Oct 12, 2020 7:37 PM

Decorah Superintendent Mark Lane presented information to the school board on Monday evening about the district's transition to onsite learning.  

The district has now been in school for 35 total days with 11 of those being full onsite learning for students and staff. The school year, including the 5 weeks of hybrid learning and the last 2 weeks of full onsite learning, has had quite a few positives.  According to Lane's report, some of these include stable internal data, consistent engagement in activities, strong attendance for both models of learning, and use of mitigation strategies.

"Our goal is to have students in the classroom as much and as safely as possible, and the positives are reflective of this goal," said Lane. He continues, "We are grateful and thankful that our students have been able to engage in activities. It's a true celebration."

Challenges highlighted in Lane's presentation included the school buildings not being built for social distancing, and students and staff remaining vigilant with mitigation strategies such as mask wearing and washing hands. Lane said, "These are all new habits, and it's easy to just get tired of doing the things that we have to do to be successful." He continued that the district is learning to work through and stay consistent with the practices.

Lane's presentation also included a small list of cautions, or things that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.  On this list were things such as the cooperative weather the district has had so far that won't last too much longer, acceptable variations of the system, and the need for agility as the school year continues. Lane commented on the need for agility from full onsite to online learning and mentioned how the upcoming flu season and big travel holidays like Thanksgiving might influence the district's currently low COVID numbers.

When Lane asked for comments, Director Krista Vanden Brink brought up the newest face covering guidelines from CDC.  The guidelines now state that face shields and gaiters are not acceptable forms of protective face coverings, even though these are potentially still being used in the district.
Vanden Brink said, "We are continuing to learn about this virus, but we need to be both flexible and be strict with our guidelines."

Director Brian Petersburg added, "We must be diligent and stay on top of this, and we need to show the public that we take this seriously."

Lane plans to get together with Vanden Brink to rewrite the current Return to Learn plan and make the wording about appropriate face coverings more accurate and up to date. He concluded the discussion, "We must teach it, model it, and enforce it."