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COVID-19

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Transition to Remote Learning from Nov. 30-Dec. 4

Dear Families,

As you know, we have been closely and continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation in our schools and community.

Our hybrid learning model continues to work as designed. Our ability to operate this model from the beginning of the school year through Thanksgiving is a testament to the staff and students who have continued to make this model successful. At the same time, we have seen significant spikes in COVID-19 cases following holidays and want to be prepared for a spike following Thanksgiving.

A PREVENTATIVE ACTION STEP
Following Thanksgiving, we plan to temporarily move to remote learning for ALL STUDENTS for ONE WEEK from Monday, Nov. 30, through Friday, Dec. 4.

  • The district has applied for a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education for this move.
  • Additional details about remote learning and meal availability during this time will be shared in upcoming days.
  • Our intent is to return to hybrid learning on Monday, Dec. 7.

WHY TAKE THIS STEP?
This move is designed to provide an extra layer of protection to students and staff, as the vast majority of individuals will exhibit symptoms within 10 days following exposure.

  • Again, this measure is NOT due to spread of COVID-19 in buildings.
  • This move to remote learning will provide a 12-day break from in-person instruction and 10-days post-Thanksgiving.
  • We recognize that this is an inconvenience, but it will have great long-term benefit in allowing us to continue in-person learning moving forward.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FAMILIES?
We understand that this temporary move will require adjustments for families.

  • Fully online students will continue instruction on these days as scheduled.
  • For those in the hybrid model, this move will require families to make arrangements for students to be at home during that week for two additional days (A-day students) or three additional days (B-day students).
  • During this time, we urge families to continue taking the necessary steps to social distance, wear masks and to monitor for any symptoms.
  • Any individuals who develop symptoms should follow the steps outlined in the district’s COVID-19 Response Protocol.

Our ongoing mitigation strategies, combined with enhanced preventative restrictions across the county/state and optimistic news on the horizon regarding vaccine development, will allow this break to set us up to move forward with as little disruption as possible in the future.

Thank you for playing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and for your ongoing support of our students.

Sincerely,
Stan Rheingans
Superintendent

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Coronavirus Update: Nov. 6

Dear DCSD Families and Staff,

As many of you know, we continue to see COVID-19 cases increases in our community and our state. And, with Dubuque County’s 14-day positivity rate breaking the 20% threshold, we have received a number of questions about the impact of COVID-19 on schools moving forward.

At this time, we will continue to operate in our hybrid model with the fully online option in place for those desiring it.

The strong mitigation strategies in place across the district (including mandated mask wearing and social distancing in school settings) continue with daily reinforcement to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff while they are in our buildings.

Our hybrid system was designed with the assumption that COVID-19 was present in our community, and we feel confident in maintaining this model at this time for two key reasons:

  1. In almost every instance, contact tracing efforts have linked positive cases in the district to activities or interactions unrelated to school or school-sponsored activities.
    • Most frequently, this is tied to another household member being positive or from attendance at a social gathering – even small ones!
    • A look at the district’s COVID-19 Dashboard shows that active, positive cases are widely spread out across the district.
  2. Our absentee rate due to illness remains within normal limits. Over the past two weeks, the district has averaged a daily student absentee rate due to illness of just over 3%.

We continue to be amazed with how well our students and staff have adapted to the many changes and are so proud of their ongoing commitment to following the health and safety protocols in place.

BUT, WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS.

While we believe schools are a safe learning environment for students, we remain very concerned about the upward surge of COVID-19 cases in our county and state. If we do not enhance personal mitigation practices throughout our community, all current data indicates we will see the surge continue to grow and put immense pressure on our community.

We are doing everything in our power to maintain consistency in our learning model. As we move forward, we will continuously monitor COVID-19 data in our schools and community. We continue to plan for a variety of future scenarios, including plans to move back to fully in-person learning when it is safe to do so or to move classrooms, buildings or the district to fully remote learning should conditions necessitate.

TO MAINTAIN CONSISTENT LEARNING, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER!

If community numbers continue to rise, they have the potential to impact district staffing and student attendance levels, while also putting additional strain on our community healthcare system – all of which could jeopardize our ability to maintain consistent operations.

WE CAN CHANGE THE COURSE, BUT WE CAN’T LET OUR GUARD DOWN.

Please, on behalf of our students and staff, be diligent:

  • Wear a mask and social distance.
  • Limit indoor gatherings.
  • Wash your hands.
  • In every interaction you have, ask yourself “Does this behavior put me, my family or others at risk?”

As a community, the ability to reduce COVID-19 transmission is a challenge that we collectively have the power to change. Thank you for playing your part in doing so.

Sincerely,
Stan Rheingans
Superintendent

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COVID-19 Update: September 22

Dear Dubuque Schools Families and Staff,

As a district, we continue to closely monitor data related to COVID-19 in our community and our schools.

  • You can view the most recent count of active cases in the district on our COVID-19 Dashboard, which is updated daily and provides the most accurate count of confirmed active cases in the district.

We also closely follow the indicators included in state guidance – the 14-day county positivity rate and student absenteeism due to illness.

According to guidance from the Iowa Department of Education, districts may request a temporary move to remote learning only after the county in which the district resides has a 14-day positivity rate as reported by the state exceeds 15 percent AND there is a greater than 10 percent student absentee rate due to illness.

  • We anticipate the state reported 14-day positivity rate for Dubuque County may exceed 15 percent. We also anticipate that an increase of positive COVID-19 cases in our community will result in an increase of cases among students and staff.
  • The district’s current daily student absentee rate due to illness is approximately 4 percent, which does not indicate that a move to remote education would currently be permitted by the state.
  • Based on these indicators used by the State, at this time we will continue to operate in our hybrid learning model with the many enhanced safety protocols in place across our district.

As we closely review all data indicators related to COVID-19, it is also important for us to examine what each indicator measures and how these data points relate to each other. As we do so, we must take into account the following considerations:

  • County data includes a broader geographical area than just the Dubuque Community School District.
  • As of this afternoon (Tuesday, Sept. 22), positive, active cases in the district equate to .41 percent of the 10,000 students and staff tracked on the district dashboard.
  • Based on contact tracing in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association, the overwhelming majority of these cases can be linked to interactions that occurred outside of the school day or through non-school-sponsored activities.
  • There is currently no indication of any spread within the school environment.

SAFETY AT SCHOOL

In the district, we have worked continuously to ensure that safety measures are in place in our schools. In fact, looking at the latest school-based mitigation indicators released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week, we fall into the lowest risk factor based on our implementation of the following five mitigation strategies:

  • Consistent and correct use of masks
  • Social distancing to the extent possible
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Contact tracing in collaboration with local health department

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

We can’t do it alone. We need your help in reversing the trend in our county. You can have a direct impact on our ability to continue providing educational and extracurricular offerings for students.

Please follow social distancing, wear face coverings and continue to follow hand washing and sanitization recommendations. We can turn the curve in Dubuque County and continue providing our students with in-person learning opportunities, but we will only do it together.

Sincerely,
Stan Rheingans
Superintendent of Schools

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Dubuque Schools Students to Receive No-Cost Meals Beginning Monday, Sept. 21

The Dubuque Community School District is pleased to announce that beginning Monday, Sept. 21, ALL STUDENTS in the Dubuque Community School District will receive NO-COST meals at school thanks to an extension of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

This includes all meals served at district schools, and also includes the district’s four meal Grab n’ Go locations. The four meal pick-up locations will also now operate as open meal sites and will serve any individual 18 or under (with no infant formula or food served) at no-cost regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in a district school.

In order to help properly account for distribution, we still encourage the use of elementary student meal cards and middle/high school ID cards when getting meals from a Grab n’ Go location.

No-cost meals will continue for students until December 31 OR until funding for the program is depleted. When we are notified that the program will be ending, we will share that information with families.

All funds currently on meal accounts will remain in place and will be available for use after the extension ends. Students will still be able to purchase milk-only or a la carte items with available funds on their meal account.

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Registration Assistance for Families

Our Mobile Registration School Bus is hitting the road to provide assistance for Dubuque Community School District families still needing to complete online registration for the school year!

Join us at one of the following times/locations:

Thursday, August 13, from 1-3 p.m.
Bee Branch (in the parking lot near the 22nd Street Bridge)
Note: A Marshallese interpreter will be available at this time.

Friday, August 14, from 10 a.m.-noon
Comiskey Park
Note: A Spanish interpreter will be available at this time.

Friday, August 14, 1-3 p.m.
Flora Park
Note: A Spanish interpreter will be available at this time.

Computers will be available and district staff will be on hand to support families. Social distancing measures will be in place and masks will be required.

You can also REGISTER ANYTIME ONLINE.

We look forward to seeing you at our Registration assistance events!

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Recommendation to Move Start Date to August 24

Good Evening Families and Staff,

As we prepare to welcome students back to school in the safest way possible, tonight I recommended to the School Board that the district move the first day of school back to the originally scheduled date of Monday, August 24, pending approval at the School Board meeting on Monday. In the proposed modification, orientation days would be on Thursday, August 20, and Friday, August 21.

Professional development days for teachers will now move from Friday, August 7, to Tuesday, August 11. More information about teacher professional learning will be forthcoming.

Most questions we are receiving from families seek more specifics about contact tracing and how the district will determine when to transition from one learning model to another. We have been unable to provide these specifics as we awaited state guidance.

Late last week, new guidance released by the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health left additional questions unanswered and placed much additional responsibility on local public health officials and school districts to determine specifics we expected to receive in the guidance.

This recommended move in start date will give us the extra time needed to ensure strong collaboration with local public health officials and ultimately provide families with the specifics they seek. Our goal is to keep you as informed as possible and, with these late changes, we want to be sure you have the information you need to make the best learning decisions for your family. As our work with public health progresses, we will share specifics with you as soon they are available.

We know that this calendar change may require you to make childcare arrangements for the week of August 17, so we wanted you to be aware of this recommendation for planning purposes.

In the next few days, we will also continue to move forward with the assignment of A/B hybrid learning days and plan to share those assignments with families.

We are thankful for your ongoing support of our students and thank you for your continued flexibility during these challenging times.

Sincerely,
Stan Rheingans
Superintendent of Schools

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Learning Method Selection Update

THANK YOU to our families for completing the Learn Method Selection Form as we prepare to begin the school year in hybrid and online learning models.

We are pleased to share that with over 8,800 form submissions, and follow-up calls to approximately 1,800 students by our amazing building teams, we have received responses from 93 percent of our students!

Based on these initial results, approximately 78.3 percent of our families plan to begin the year in the hybrid format and approximately 21.7 percent of our families plan to begin fully online.

Our teams are now working hard on the next steps in the process. This includes creation of A and B groups, which involves many interlocking systems. We are working to complete the groups as quickly as possible and will send an update on groupings to you early next week.

Again, thanks for your ongoing support – we are very excited to welcome our students back to school!