WDMCS Hopes to Continue Online Learning Until Winter Break

WDMCS is applying for a second waiver to the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) to continue ALL PK-12 students in an online learning environment until winter break, which starts Wednesday, Dec. 23. 

Calendar detail waivers

Why do we need to continue online?
WDMCS considers several factors to make our decision, including how COVID-19 is impacting both our community and district. Here’s what we know:

  1. The Polk County COVID-19 positivity percentage is above 10% (currently 18%).
  2. Student absences were nearing or above 10% when we made the decision to move online starting Nov. 16. Absenteeism has started to decline at all schools since moving online.
  3. Staff absences. We continued to see an increase in the percentage of staff absences due to illness prior to moving online.  We also had difficulty filling substitute positions. Staff absenteeism has also declined since transitioning online.

Download/view full COVID-19 Board Presentation

Do I still need to call into school if my student or someone in my family tests positive for COVID-19?
Yes! WDMCS must continue to track any new COVID-19 cases.

  • If any member of your family is a close contact or tests positive for COVID-19, please let us know.
  • Please call the school nurse if your child has an illness or a medical concern, is being tested for COVID-19, or has a positive COVID-19 result. 
  • You can also call the WDMCS COVID-19 Response Line at 515-633-5990
  • School nurses can assist you and your family with education regarding isolation, quarantine, and return dates to school.
  • WDMCS is required to notify the Polk County Health Department with positive COVID-19 cases, and they can assist by following up with your family.
  • Even during virtual learning, school nurses are here to assist all of our students and families.

How long will students learn online?
If the second waiver is approved, students would continue learning online through Tuesday, Dec. 22. Winter break is Wednesday, Dec. 23-Monday, Jan. 4.

What if the waiver is denied?
If the IDOE does not approve the waiver, WDMCS will look at student and staff absences at each building and consider re-applying to the IDOE for individual school waivers. The Board would most likely hold a special meeting to review recommendations. However, ALL students will continue learning online through Friday, Dec. 4, instead of Wednesday, Dec. 2.

I thought the first waiver was only through Wednesday, Dec. 2. Why can students be online Dec. 3-4 without approval from the IDOE?
The IDOE allows schools to be online two days after a waiver has been submitted. This allows them time to review the waiver and gives districts flexibility with moving (or staying) online.

How will I know if my building is one of those individual schools?
We will email ALL families and staff the response from the IDOE to explain whether or not our districtwide waiver was approved. If we need to re-apply for specific schools, we will email those families and staff.

When will we know if the waiver is approved?
We plan to submit the waiver Wednesday, Dec. 2, which allows us to remain online Thursday and Friday of that week. We hope to know by Friday, Dec. 4, so we can communicate with all staff and families.

Is child care an option for my student?
Kids West developed a plan to support families who needed full-day child care. They will reach out to current Kids West families to determine how many may need this service through Dec. 22.

Kids West staff help students connect to their online classes and monitor independent learning. 

Learning online is incredibly stressful.  What resources are available?
We understand how difficult life is right now without adding the extra pressure of all students needing to learn online. Teachers are working hard to connect, maintain relationships, and provide the critical social/emotional support your student needs. 

Please reach out to your student’s teachers or guidance counselor if you have any questions or need help. We also have several community resources posted on the WDMCS website. Topics include:

  • Food/Nutrition 
  • Wellness 
  • Technology 
  • Financial/General Support 
  • City Information

Questions about COVID-19? Call 211. A public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7.

What about school activities and athletics?
If the waiver is approved, all school-related activities, including athletics, will continue to be canceled.

Can school activities, athletics, and practices take place over winter break?
If the waiver is approved, we plan to extend cancellations through Monday, Jan. 4. No in-person meetings can be held, but advisors and coaches can hold virtual meetings.

What about meals for students?
Free meals are available at several locations as long as we continue online learning for all students. There will be three curbside pick-up locations and bus stop pick-up locations.

Meals will be given out three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (closed Nov. 25 and 27 for Thanksgiving break). Two days of meals will be handed out each day, so families are invited to come all three days each week. A warm entrée will be provided each time to eat right away, along with heat-and-serve items, fruits, vegetables, and milk.

Learn more

What about facility rentals?
If the waiver is approved, facilities will continue to be closed to rentals (both buildings and outdoor spaces) through Monday, Jan. 4.

What about Community Education classes or service learning opportunities?
WDMCS Community Education classes have already transitioned to a virtual environment or have been canceled. In-home service learning opportunities are being encouraged for I-Care and Silver Cord.

Please keep in mind the important role that our family and community members play in keeping us in the in-person and hybrid models. Wearing face masks in public, practicing physical distancing, frequent and correct hand washing, minimizing your time out in public, limiting the number of people you interact with, and staying home when you are sick will all help minimize the spread of COVID-19.  

We hope to hear from the IDOE by Friday, Dec. 4, about the districtwide waiver. Once we know if it is approved, we will communicate with all staff and families by email, app, and text, as well as through our district website and social media. You can also receive daily COVID-19 updates through our district dashboard.