Dike-New Hartford schools move to required learning

By: 
Seth McDuffee
Eclipse News-Review

Previously in the camp of “voluntary learning” while waiting for official word from the Governor’s office on school closure, Dike-New Hartford schools have begun the transition to “required learning” as part of educational extension measures. Governor Kim Reynolds ordered on April 17 that all Iowa schools would be closed through the end of the scholastic year. This caused a realignment in many districts across the state, including the D-NH community.

According to Dike-New Hartford Superintendent Justin Stockdale, the decision to switch from voluntary education to required wasn’t made lightly.

“There was a lot of uncertainty at first,” Stockdale said, “and we knew the staff needed time to get their feet underneath them with online learning in terms of prep, planning, and the logistics.”

Stockdale explained that transitioning from one position to the other was the most rational way to handle the situation.

“This doesn’t happen overnight,” he said, “going the voluntary route gave staff time to practice and provide enrichment opportunities to those who decided to join.”

When Gov. Reynolds officially declared that Iowans would not be returning to school this year, Stockdale and district staff members met through teleconference to vote on how best to proceed. It was a majority vote to switch to required learning, and after the weekend, met with the school board for an official decision. It was decided that grades 9, 10, and 11 would fall under the required learning opportunity, while Kindergarten through grade 8 would still be voluntary.

Seniors would be under a validation of Pass or No Pass, with the qualifiers for anyone currently enrolled in a class being that they would automatically receive a Pass. If a student receives a No Pass, they will be considered as “withdrawn”. According to the NCAA, any student receiving a Pass will be accepted as part of continued education.

Required distance learning can present challenges for certain families, especially those that do not have access to the necessary resources to attend online classes, or those with special education requirements. However, Stockdale has said that they are already taking care of those issues.

“Chad Bixby, our Technology Director will be setting up connectivity,” Stockdale said, “anyone without internet access will have it, and the school will pay for it …the priority is to make sure that if you’re requiring kids to [take online classes], to make sure they can get in.”

Considerable thought has been given to Special Education, and the best implementation for their learning. Meetings have been held with department staff and 88 partners using a litany of material to plan for the specific requirements for learning.

All of this will roll out on Monday, May 4, and will carry on until the end of the school year. Stockdale indicated that next week will be decisive in seeing how everything comes together.

“Certain content lends itself better to online instruction compared to others.” He said, “Watching that unfold will be the best way to tell where our support will need to flow to. We don’t have any classes we aren’t offering, if that says anything.”

Stockdale indicated that next week will be decisive in seeing how everything comes together.

Seniors’ final day of school was originally slated to be May 8, and according to Stockdale, there are tentative plans for a summer ceremony for those graduates, depending on how quickly the global crisis improves. Some projections are as early as June 17, or as late as August.

“We’ve picked a range of dates,” Stockdale said, “we are considering holding a ceremony outside, like the football stadium, a place where we can honor social distancing guidelines. If things don’t improve enough to have gathering, we might have to go digital to give these kids the recognition they deserve.”

Nothing is without challenges, but Stockdale has a lot of confidence in his administration and staff in the district.

“I can’t applaud our teachers enough,” he said, “I’ve been really proud of them. There’s no script for how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if you’re in education, or the healthcare industry, you’re an essential employee to navigate [the pandemic]. We will continue to focus on what’s best for our kids, and I want to reassure everyone that they are in good hands. By sticking together, we will get through this.”

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