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ELC must provide ‘equal’ education during shutdown

By Staff | Mar 26, 2020

For those who can keep track of Estherville Lincoln Central School District updates on the school’s Facebook page, visitors might find a teacher reading a book or even the P.E. teacher offering an indoor workout routine.

During this four-week shutdown phase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ELC Superintendent Tara Paul says the faculty remain busy in preparing for the students’ eventual return.

“Currently all of our staff members are going through a professional development course titled “Trauma-Informed Online Academy” that is focused on understanding and working with students who are living with or have experienced trauma in their lives,” Paul said. “Each building is meeting with their building administrator on the learning and discussing with each other the learning and how it applies to our students and our situation at ELC. We know that this shutdown has been traumatic for some of our students beyond what they have already experienced and we want to be prepared for their return. Our teachers are also planning their next lessons and where they go with students when we come back with the time we have left in the school year. We have also been connected as much as we can with our students, checking in on them and making sure they are doing ok.”

Some residents may be wondering why the school district is conducting virtual learning lessons, as it does when there are snow days. During those times, students in grades 5-12 are able to access assignments through Chromebooks while the parents of elementary youth receive suggested activities and lessons from email over an application called Seesaw.

Why isn’t ELC doing this during this break caused by COVID-19?

It’s because of a concern by the state education department that all students won’t have equal access.

On the ELC School District website, a list of frequently-asked questions addresses this issue.

School officials say they hope to provide online/e-learning opportunities if the shutdown goes longer than the planned four weeks. However, more guidance is needed from the Iowa Department of Education.

Superintendent Paul said Wednesday that a state task force is reviewing the possibility of virtual learning, but had not received any new information.

Some of the concerns the state has are as follows:

n Do all students have internet access?

n Is the material provided in English and Spanish so all parents have access to help their children?

n Is the material provided in levels so those Below – At – Above grade level are able to access it?

n Can we provide individual Specially Designed Instruction for the material for students on an IEPs (Individual Education Plans)?

n Do students have access to the 1:1 support needed to be successful as defined in their IEP and by their IEP team?

n Should the Department of Education work through this information and give their permission, ELC officials say they will being to provide online/e-learning to students.

College courses

For high school students taking courses at Iowa Lakes Community College, the college has taken its learning online and should be communicating expectations with those students.

Students taking a concurrent enrollment course with an ELC teacher will receive a communication from those teachers within the next week with a plan to continue their class. This is for college credit classes only.