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Davenport

Schools to seek waiver to continue virtual learning

DAVENPORT, IOWA – The Davenport Community School District is planning to ask for another waiver from the state to continue fully online learning as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb.

The district, like many others in the Quad-Cities, recently switched to a fully remote learning model because of the Quad-Cities area’s increasing number of COVID-19 cases. The current waiver is scheduled to expire on on Dec. 1.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Bill Decker, chief administrator at Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, part of the district’s interim leadership team, said the number of employees being isolated or quarantined underlies the intent to ask for another waiver.

“There is almost no other choice from a staffing perspective than for the district to apply for an additional waiver,” he said.

Generally, districts can choose between having students attend classes in person or adopting a hybrid plan that combines online and traditional instruction with at least 50% of teaching occurring in person. Families may adopt fully virtual instruction for their children regardless of the model chosen by their district.

In almost every circumstance, an Iowa district must have the state’s permission to shift to fully virtual instruction and certain benchmarks are required.

A district can request a waiver for itself or individual buildings to go fully online for up to 14 days.

Materials provided by the state specify that if the pertinent county’s 14-day average of positive cases is between 15% and 20%, absenteeism for in-person learning in the district is at 10%, but healthcare resources in the area are considered stable, then a district can ask for a waiver.

When a county is at more than 20% for the 14-day average and healthcare resources strained, a district can also request a waiver. At that level, the absentee requirement falls away.

A district that has 100% of instruction in the classroom can switch to fully virtual for a week without state permission because doing so does not drop it below the 50% in-person requirement. North Scott, the only Iowa Quad-Cities district to adopt the fully traditional model, has done so.

As of Monday night, the 14-day average in Scott County was 24.2%, according to the state’s COVID-19 statistics website.

During the discussion, Decker said the district could end the fully online instruction early if the staff is available.

He also told the board while answering questions that the use of 100% virtual instruction does not have to apply to all students.

Staff were exploring allowing elementary students to attend in-person classes through using substitutes.

During the discussion about dealing with the pandemic, the board also got an update about interim superintendent T.J. Schneckloth, who contracted COVID-19.

“He is doing better and he will recover but I am not sure that it’s going to be a short process,” Decker said.

Also during the regular meeting, the board approved contracts with these companies:

— Aercor: The project involves updates to its wireless network to help the district provide internet access. The total cost is just over $840,000 but federal support will cover the bulk of the expense, leaving the district a bill of about $168,000.

— Netrix: This is a renewal of an existing security contract designed to protect the district’s network. The cost is just over $85,000.

The votes in both cases were unanimous with all board members present.

After the regular meeting, the board convened its annual meeting and chose new officers.

The president of the board will be Daniel Gosa, replacing Bruce Potts, and the vice president, Linda Hayes, replacing Gosa. These selections were made during the board’s annual meeting which followed the regular meeting.

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