While the news that Iowa schools would be closed through the end of the school year wasn’t welcome, it wasn’t unexpected.
“We had been planning for this route all along so that it wouldn’t be as shocking when we got here,” said Saint Patrick’s School Principal Kandice Roethler.
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that all Iowa schools would be closed through the remainder of the school year during a press conference on Friday, April 17. Schools were initially closed in mid-March help stop the spread of COVID-19. That closure was extended to April 30 during a press conference on April 2.
Roethler said she had been talking with her staff and having them prepare for the possibility that school would not return this school year.
“It doesn’t make it stink any less that we not going to get to see them (students), but it made this transition just a little bit easier,” Roethler said.
She added that she has been impressed with how the teachers have jumped on board right from the beginning. St. Pat’s had started a voluntary learning program the week following spring break.
That program, Roethler said, has since switched over to required online learning. The required program started on Tuesday, April 14.
“We had put stuff out to parents the week prior so they knew we would be checking for attendance, so that we wanted to see kids checking in somehow almost everyday,” Roethler said. “Students would be getting grades and feedback on their learning that they were doing from our staff the entire month of April.”
Roethler said that the school will be continuing with the required learning format using different platforms now through the end of May.
Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education said in a press release that they will be requiring schools to submit a Return to Learn Plan by July 1. Roethler said she had already been working on a similar plan. She added that the plan will address not only academic needs but also staff needs.
Work will shift to looking into ways to get materials returned to the school, Roethler said, as well as opportunities to provide closure for students.
“We miss our kids and we’re even more excited now to be able to see them when we can,” she said. “Our biggest focus now will be when we know we can have some gatherings, when those restrictions are removed, we can actually give them some closure so they can have that good-bye that they didn’t get for this school year. I think that’s important for them.”
The school’s grab-and-go meal program will continue through the end of the school year, Roethler said, as long as supplies last. She also encourages families to reach out to the school with any financial, food or even emotional concerns.
Roethler said additional information will be going out to families once more is known.
“I really feel confident in what we’ve put in place for our families now that our teachers did some of that heavy lifting right away and I think that’s helped put us a little bit ahead of the game,” Roethler said. “This is a whole new ball game and it changes everyday. We’re trying to adapt and be as prepared as we possibly can.”