On-Site Learning Environment FAQs

Hybrid Option 2 – On-Site Learning Environment FAQs


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Q: If there is a COVID-19 diagnosis in a school building, what will happen?
A: If a WDMCS student or employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, the district will work with local health officials to determine the appropriate next steps. This may require a building to temporarily shift to an online learning environment. Because each case is unique, we will communicate through our Blackboard phone, email, text, and app alerts any time-sensitive announcements regarding any needed changes for a school day.

WDMCS will also reach out to the employee/supervisor or family about possible exposure. We will work alongside the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Polk County Health Department to communicate with those individuals impacted to determine their needs and provide support.

We will deep-clean any district buildings impacted. We must maintain privacy of individuals but will share extensive communication regarding exposure or potential exposure to allow families and staff to make informed decisions.

Q: What happens if an on-site student is diagnosed with COVID-19 and needs to move online learning? Could the student return to on-site learning following illness, quarantine, etc.?
A: If an on-site student tests positive and needs to self-quarantine, they would manage their learning online for the specified period of time and then return to class on-site. At the elementary level, it is possible that moving to online means joining a fully online classroom and teacher. This would impact staffing, class rosters, a change of teacher, etc. At grades 9-12, this could be an easier shift due the opportunity to remote-in to some on-site classes.  

WDMCS is still considering what online learning will look like at all levels. It could include a teacher lecture or a recorded lesson students watch independently. Teachers may then use “class/virtual” time to meet with small groups of students to check for understanding and/or provide feedback.  

Q: Will teachers be managing on-site and online students at the same time?
Potentially. We plan for elementary and junior high students learning online to follow a schedule with some classroom virtual meetings and built-in breaks, which may be supported by dedicating some staff to online teaching only. Another option would be to have teachers pre-record lessons for online students to watch at the time that works best for them. For high school students, we plan to have students “remote in” to some classes, allowing more time for teachers to interact with students both ways.

Both plans depend on the number of students that choose online and on-site learning. No matter what, WDMCS will ensure teachers have appropriate time to engage with and provide feedback to all students. We will add more information as it becomes available.

Q: Who will be teaching my student’s class When They’re Ill or on Leave?
We know that based on the COVID-19 positivity rate and/or cases specifically in your student’s building or class, your student may need to transition between online and on-site instruction. When a teacher is ill or on leave, your student will have a substitute teacher. However, if the teacher is quarantined but able to teach, they may provide instruction remotely while students remain in the classroom. A staff member or substitute will be present to provide additional on-site support and supervision.

Regardless of where your student learns this fall, please be reassured that your student’s teachers are eager to connect and build positive relationships. They miss seeing your student’s smile each day and can’t wait for the first day of school!

Q: Will online learners be given actual workbooks and paper/pencil materials to work with?
A: Our goal is to have all resources available within Canvas for online learners, but we know there may be necessary hard-copy materials. We are continuing to discuss and make plans for providing needed resources for elementary and secondary students. For instance, we will continue to make sure all students have access to Chromebooks and will look for ways to provide other materials and resources that students may need.

Q: How will WDMCS work with high-risk students who wish to learn on-site?
A: WDMCS will work to accommodate each family’s choice for their students but ask that families contact the school nurse to address concerns in further detail and potentially develop a more robust health care plan.

Q: How will allergies be addressed with students eating in the classrooms?
A: Schools will follow the standard steps in place to help protect students who may have severe allergies. Staff are informed of student allergies and signage is placed throughout buildings for others to be “allergy aware.” Building administrators will work with students and families based on the specific needs of each student.

Q: Will school playgrounds be open during recess?
A: Making sure elementary students have recess time is a priority for WDMCS, but that time will look different. Face coverings will be required based on the activity and if social distancing is limited. Students who are outside may not be required to wear a face covering with appropriate social distancing.  Students will wear masks during recess if they are participating in activities that bring them within 6’ of other students and social distancing would be difficult to maintain.  We encourage families to send a cloth/soft face covering for this active time. Students will also wash hands before and after recess, and staff will reinforce the importance of hand-washing and sanitizing.

Classroom cohorts of students will go to recess together and be zoned together on the playground to maintain social distance. We will use classroom sets of toys to reduce the amount of sharing. We are having ongoing discussions about the larger equipment and how those can be safely used. 

Q: Will parents, visitors, and/or volunteers be allowed in buildings?
A: Our current guidance recommends that we limit the number of visitors into schools. If a visitor needs to be in a building, they would complete a self-assessment and/or other current processes similar to staff entering the building. We would limit visitors/volunteers to essential instances to reduce exposure as much as possible. We want people to be part of our school community, but we need to provide a safe environment for students and staff. 

Q: If we’re limiting people who can come into the buildings, will WDMCS Community Education programming continue with in-person classes/facilities rental?
A:  Yes, we will continue with Community Education programming and facility rentals. Those responsible will be asked to follow our guidelines for use.

Q: Will locker rooms be used during P.E.?
Junior high schools are not using lockers or having students change for P.E., but lockers will be used for athletics. Valley High School will assign P.E. lockers, keeping enough space between each locker to maintain social distance. They also have planned several P.E. activities for the fall that do not require students to wear P.E. clothes.


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Q: How will social distancing be maintained between 20-24 children in a classroom?
A: We understand it may be difficult to maintain a social distance in our classrooms and therefore are requiring face coverings to be worn as a mitigation strategy. Students will be spaced as far apart as possible at all times.

Q. How will students rotate from class to class and room to room?
A. Elementary:
Passing times have been reduced for all students in the elementary setting. Travel to “specials”, specialized support classes, and recess may be the only times elementary students are passing in hallways. Students will pass wearing appropriate face coverings and following directional signage placed in halls.  Buildings may designate steps and/or hallways in their buildings as one-directional and also stagger passing times to limit the number of students transition.  

Junior High: Junior high students will rotate in three sessions of three-minute passing. Junior highs may not incorporate the use of lockers, at least to start the upcoming school year. 

High School: Valley Southwoods and Valley High School students will rotate classes in a traditional 5-minute passing period. Face coverings will be required during passing period, students will be asked to stay to the right side of hallways, and students will be asked to maintain social distancing to the greatest extent possible.

Walnut Creek will have traditional 3-minute passing periods with face coverings required.


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Q: What will WDMCS provide students?
West Des Moines Community Schools is providing face shields for PK-6 students to wear while at school. Students can wear the face shield, a face mask, another face covering from home, or both. Face shields will be kept at school, so elementary students will need a face covering from home to wear while entering and exiting the building and riding the bus.

As a reminder, face coverings are required for all on-site students and staff. “Face coverings” includes face masks, face shields, and neck gaiters made of appropriate material to help protect against COVID-19. Face coverings will also be worn at P.E., recess, and other active times—unless social distancing is possible.

Q: Are face coverings required?
A: WDMCS staff will be expected to use some form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on their role. This may include wearing a face shield, face mask, and/or gloves. Students will be required to wear masks. WDMCS will provide face shields for K-6 students that will be kept in their classroom and sanitized daily.  Other face coverings should be provided by families. If a family is unable to provide a covering or a student forgets a covering there will be some available at the building for the student.

Q: Are students allowed to wear branded face coverings with slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Make America Great Again”?
A: Face coverings will fall under Board Policy 502 (Student Appearance), which states, “Clothing or other apparel promoting products illegal for use by minors and clothing displaying obscene material, profanity, or reference to prohibited conduct are disallowed.  While the primary responsibility for appearance lies with the students and their parents, appearance disruptive to the education program will not be tolerated. When, in the judgment of a principal, a student’s appearance or mode of dress disrupts the educational process or constitutes a threat to health or safety, the student may be required to make modifications.”

Q: Will exceptions be allowed for elementary students to NOT wear a face shield? What would be some examples of reasons for exceptions?
A:  Face shields will be provided to all elementary students. They can choose to wear a different face covering throughout the day, but some kind of face covering is required except when eating or during outdoor activities with social distancing. Exemptions for NOT wearing a face covering must fall under a documented medical or religious exemption. Those exemptions must be provided to the building administrator for review. Face shields would not be worn during recess. Face coverings would be worn when walking into and out of the building.

Q:  Will face coverings be required for P.E. and/or recess?
A: Face coverings will be required based on the activity and if social distancing is limited. Students who are outside may not be required to wear a face covering with appropriate social distancing. If students can be socially distanced during active time outdoors, it could be a good time to take a break from face coverings safely. If WDMCS can’t ensure social distancing during active time, face coverings are still required. This could apply to situations like elementary recess when classes are separated.


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Q: What will health self-assessments look like for students?
A: For students, we will ask families to take temperatures of students before leaving the house for school in the morning. WDMCS will assess students for symptoms of COVID-19 and share that information with families. WDMCS will continue to encourage families to keep their students home when they are not feeling well. This will help us all ensure that we continue working together to keep everyone healthy and safe.




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Q: How is WDMCS keeping buildings clean?
A: WDMCS is currently using a daily disinfectant with electrostatic sprayers. We are also looking at products that provide protection over time and disinfecting agents that can be applied and prohibit spread. Our custodial and maintenance crews are following touch-point cleaning schedules to apply disinfectant, and we will deep-clean any district buildings impacted by a positive case.