On January 29, a new law went into effect in Iowa requiring that all school districts offer the option of a five-day, 100% in-person school week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Des Moines Public Schools will make this option available to students beginning Monday, February 15. The virtual learning option will continue to be available and the hybrid model will come to an end.
Below we share information on how to select the option – virtual or five-day in-person – that is best for your child(ren); what steps DMPS can and cannot take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools; and what classrooms will look like with the resumption of a five-day in-person school week.
No one wants to see students back in school more than those of us in education, and we will do our best to balance the important work in our local schools with the impact of a global pandemic. Please review all of the following information before making your decision about the right option for your family.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SELECTION
All parents and guardians of DMPS students may select one of two learning options that will be available to your child(ren) beginning Monday, February 15:
- FIVE-DAY SCHOOL WEEK: 100% in-person classes for students at their school Monday through Friday.
- VIRTUAL LEARNING: 100% online classes, similar to the virtual learning model in place this school year.
Please note that the last day for the hybrid learning model will be Friday, February 12; that option will no longer be available.
In order to make your selection go to the link below and follow the instructions to complete the online form:
The selection process and form will be available to DMPS parents and guardians all week. Please complete by Friday, February 5.
If this form is not completed by the end of the week, the following options will be assigned to your child(ren):
- Students currently in the virtual learning model will remain in the virtual learning model and online classes.
- Students currently in the hybrid learning model will be assigned to the five-day in-person school week.
Other items to consider in making your selection:
- Changing a student’s learning model choice may mean a change in their teacher and/or schedule. High schools are available to talk with students about what a change could mean for their courses.
- There is no change to the Central Campus and Central Academy programs and they will continue their schedules that have been in place this school year.
HEALTH & SAFETY MEASURES AT SCHOOLS
The five-day school week option will mean a significant increase in the number of people in our school buildings each day. Because of that, it is more important than ever that everyone does their part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For DMPS, that will mean steps such as:
- Face masks will be required in schools at all times except for meal or snack times;
- Thousands of hand sanitizers have been installed and will be maintained for use;
- Communal water fountains will remain closed and water bottle filling stations will be open;
- Air circulation will continue to be increased in school buildings;
- Periodic disinfecting of high-contact areas will continue;
- Athletics will continue to follow winter sports guidelines set by CIML, including limits on crowd size at events.
However, some basic steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will no longer be feasible, notably social distancing. With the increase in class sizes (see below), the recommendations for social distancing will not be able to be met in classrooms. It will be encouraged whenever possible, but it cannot be guaranteed or enforced throughout the school day. The same is true on school buses; face masks will be required but social distancing will not always be possible.
Finally, at this time only a small number school staff in Iowa – such as nurses, audiologists and counselors – who have had regular direct contact with students have received their first vaccine for COVID-19 and hope to be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. However, while teachers and other school staff are eligible to begin receiving the vaccine starting this week, it is in the early stages and none will have received a second dose by February 15 as the vaccination process will be far from complete and expected to continue through the rest of the school year and into the summer.
EXPECTED INCREASES IN CLASS SIZES
Under the hybrid learning model, class sizes were relatively small and measures such as social distancing could often times be observed in classrooms and schools.
At DMPS, hybrid in-person classes at elementary and middle schools averaged 9 students while the average hybrid class size at high schools ranged from 11 to 14.
This number is expected to double or more under the five-day school week. As parents consider the health and well-being of their child(ren) and teachers, classrooms of between 20-30 students will most likely be the norm.