Special Board Meeting Monday Night

November 20, 2020

The Decorah Board of Directors will hold a special meeting Monday, November 23 at 6:00 pm in the Decorah Middle School Media Center to discuss current county and district COVID-19 related data, and the district learning model between Thanksgiving and winter breaks. At the meeting, Superintendent Mark Lane will recommend deploying the learning model plan reflected in the calendar below.

Lane explains, “The District would transition to remote learning for all students the week of Monday, November 30 through Friday, December 4. We would then transition back to full on-site learning for the weeks of Monday, December 7 through Friday, December 11, and Monday, December 14 through Friday, December 18. We would finish our last two days of learning in December as remote learning days Monday, December 21 and Tuesday, December 22. Our intention would be to return to full on-site learning when we return from Winter Break Monday, January 4, 2021.”

Learning Model Thanksgiving Winter Break

“There are a number of reasons I believe transitioning to this model is the right thing for us to do over the next seven weeks,” Lane continues. “Since the pandemic began, we have found success in a planful, proactive approach. We continue to see our state, county, and district data trending in the wrong direction. It appears local active case counts and 14-day positivity rates will continue to climb. I don’t want to wait and then need to cancel school, or only be able to give families 24-hours notice before the transition to remote learning.”

As these numbers have increased, the District has watched the number of students and staff needing to quarantine or isolate increase. It currently has the most staff out for quarantine or isolation at any point this school year. The number of quarantining/isolating staff absenteeism combined with the general staff absenteeism leads to challenges to ensure full coverage of daily staffing needs. A week of remote learning will enable quarantining staff to teach remotely, and hopefully will allow for the number of staff requiring quarantining to settle back to a more manageable level.

Lane noted, “If we wait and fall into a reactive position, it is more likely we would need to submit a waiver request to the Iowa Department of Education to move to remote learning for two weeks. If that occurred, we would also be required to suspend all athletic and extracurricular activities for the period in which we are in remote learning. A one-week period of remote learning does not require approval from the state, and we are not required to suspend all athletic and extracurricular activities. Our students will be able to continue extracurricular engagement during our remote learning week. If we have a contest or concert scheduled, we will be able to have the event under the spectator limits and mitigation practices dictated by the governor’s proclamation.”

“Our students have worked incredibly hard to give themselves a chance to have normal school and extracurricular activities. I want to do what we can to be in the best position possible to continue to give them these opportunities.”

“When this school year began, I said we would break the year into manageable, planful chunks. We started the year in a hybrid model. We were successful in learning new routines and becoming familiar with how we need to work and learn while promoting health and safety. When we moved to full on-site learning, we said we would maintain the model as long as it was safe and manageable. We are now entering a new period between two breaks. We can go about this period in one of two ways. We can wait until conditions get worse, and then have to rapidly change course at a moment’s notice, or we can lay out a clear plan for finishing the 17 days of school between breaks.”

Monday night, Superintendent Lane will recommend the clear, planful approach to the school board.

Decorah Community School District is committed to providing transparent, accurate data regarding cases of isolation and/or quarantining related to COVID-19 while maintaining the confidentiality of students and staff. On September 18, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department of Education released guidance to school districts and local public health agencies detailing communication of COVID-19 related data.

The Iowa Department of Public Health guidance can be found here.

COVID Data 11 20 20

Summary Positive COVID-19 through Thursday, November 19

  • Of approximately 290 Staff – Nine (9) positive COVID-19 – Eight (8) recovered
  • Of approximately 1575 On-site students – Twenty-five (25) positive COVID-19 – Twenty (20) recovered

Daily Data for Friday, November 20, 2020:

DAILY COVID Data 11 20 20

In Closing

Lane shared, “On July 17, I partnered with DCSD Board President Ron Fadness and DEA President Steve Peterson to write a message to our community: You need us soon; We need you now. In the message we wrote:

We still have the power to change our trajectory, to right our path, and to take the actions necessary to make on-site learning a reality for this school year. We know our parents, students, and community need us soon. Today, we are saying we need you now. Thank you for your support of Decorah Schools, and thank you for doing your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

The sentiments we expressed back in July remain true today. We want our students to be in our schools; we want our students to have normal school experiences like concerts, wrestling matches, mock trial and robotics competitions, and basketball games. It is also clear that as a society we want to do the things we normally do in the way we normally do them.

I believe it is critical that we realize we can’t have both. Across our state, we are putting on-site school and normal school activities in jeopardy by engaging in other normal behavior.”

Winn County COVID Data 11 20 20

State and Winneshiek County COVID-19 positivity data are at the highest levels since the pandemic began. The data above is reflective of the current state of the community in which DCSD staff and students live, and the District struggles every day to manage their system in safe and healthy ways due to the increase in numbers.

On Wednesday, November 18, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave a one-hour presentation to the University of Virginia Medical Center titled Covid-19: Public Health and Scientific Challenges. The lecture is now available on YouTube, and the superintendent would highly recommend watching it. Here is the link.

In the presentation Dr. Fauci shares data from a recent research study which can be found here.

Community Exposures

Across 11 United States health care facilities treating COVID-19 positive individuals, restaurants, gyms, bars and coffee shops, and churches and religious gatherings were the most frequently cited locations for exposure to COVID-19.

In his Friday Message to Families, Lane concluded, “Each one of us can take simple, purposeful action to slow the spread in our community. We want to do our job; we want to see our students each day, but we want to do that in a way that doesn’t make us fear for our safety, the safety of our students, and that of our own families and loved ones.”

“Today, I urge each of us to wear a mask, to stay home when we are sick, and to take drastic action to limit our exposure to people outside our immediate family. If we continue on the path we are on as a state and county, schools will be forced to go to remote learning. It is a matter of priorities, and it is within our control.”