While the 2021-22 school year will not look like last year, schools and colleges across the region are working to make things as close to pre-pandemic “normal” as possible while preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 once again forcing social distancing and other safety measures.
Unlike last school year, new state laws now prevent public and accredited private schools from forcing students, faculty, and staff to abide by mask mandates (though they still have the option to encourage mask wear) and require schools to offer 100% face-to-face learning. for students.
Also unlike the start of last school year, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone 12 years of age and older. But while schools are allowed to encourage students and staff to get vaccinated, they are not allowed to require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19, nor can they ask them for their vaccination status.
This leaves pre-K-12 schools in the region with a limited set of COVID-19 safety options before fall.
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The school districts of Burlington and West Burlington, as well as Burlington Notre Dame and Great River Christian School, plan to start the fall semester at full capacity, with full-size classrooms, continue to clean and disinfect their facilities and make every effort to keep students exposed or infected. with COVID-19 caught up while they were away from class.
Online learning options will also be different this year.
The Burlington and West Burlington online programs will be delivered through the VIBE program, a K-12 public virtual learning program that will be open for the 2021-22 school year.
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Burlington Notre Dame will not be offering virtual learning options for students this year.
And the Great River Christian School will provide virtual learning options for students, but those options will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the health or life situation of the students.
Great River has yet to finalize its COVID-19 plans for the fall semester, but plans to do so at its next board meeting on August 19. According to administrator Laura Francisco, mask warrants are under discussion, but it’s not clear at this time if they will be enforced this fall.
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Colleges are not subject to mask tenure bans under state law, and Iowa Wesleyan University and Southeastern Community College have different plans in place for the fall.
The Iowa Wesleyan will enforce a mask warrant for all indoor facilities, but, for now, CSC only plans to encourage the wearing of masks at its West Burlington and Keokuk campuses, as well as at its Fort Madison and Mount Pleasant.
Only normal online courses are offered at each college this year, but accommodations can be made for individual students on a case-by-case basis.
Burlington and West Burlington have contingency plans ready in case either district has to revert to blended or online learning.
According to CSC President Michael Ash, if necessary, CSC could revert to online learning and reduce class capacity in less than a week.
For Great River students, Francisco said The Hawk Eye’s e-learning could be reimplemented in about 24 hours, if needed.
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Overall, Burlington, West Burlington, Burlington Notre Dame, Great River, SCC and Iowa Wesleyan all say they plan to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and listen to recommendations from the state, the ministry. from Iowa Education, Centers for Disease Control and others. before deciding how to proceed.