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EAST DUBUQUE–East Dubuque Superintendent TJ Potts recommended to the East Dubuque School Board, at its Nov. 18 meeting, that grades five-12 attend virtually during the weeks immediately following holiday breaks, Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and Jan. 4-8.
“We talked early on this school year that if numbers began creeping up that we would want to do something proactive,” said Potts. “In August and September we talked about this time of the year with flu season and the holidays and said we would wait to see what happens. What we thought would happen is happening.”
Potts said it is the school’s mission to control things when possible and with the current pandemic, the school has no control on what goes on off school grounds.
Overall, Potts thinks the district has weathered the pandemic well with only needing to go virtual early in the year, but the number of staff that are out due to symptoms or quarantine has Potts concerned.
“It seems crazy to be saying it, but we are doing okay overall,” said Potts. “However, we are starting to get stretched thin at East Dubuque High School with the staff, and we knew full well at the start that this would be the Achilles heel of any plan that we put together.”
Potts recommended that the week after Thanksgiving and the week after winter break be remote to help lessen the potential COVID spread the holidays might cause.
“We recommend these times as that is the amount of time after exposure that people will most likely show symptoms,” said Potts.
Potts told the board administration will review and assess the situation during each virtual week to see if it needs to be extended or if the school can stay with the schedule as presented.
“Our goal is to be in-person, but in the safest way possible,” said Potts.
Potts also discussed the reason that the elementary grades are not included in the virtual plan.
“Remote learning is difficult for younger students,” said Potts. “If there isn’t an adult nearby, they struggle. It is difficult for the teachers to get things done.”
Potts believes the plan allows the district to keep kids safe and would were the district to pivot to full remote learning if needed.
“We know that the best instruction occurs in-person,” said Potts. “But we have to be realistic and realize what is going on and hopefully keeps us from going on an extended remote period when we get back after the breaks.”
Potts is hoping parents will help ensure rules are being followed during this time and that students attend virtually as if they were going to school.
“Our expectation is that school is happening during this,” said Potts. “This is not a week off; this is not an extended vacation. Students are expected to be in school during school hours.”
The board also:
•learned the school received $1,472 in grant funding to purchase new books.
•learned the high school changed its format with students now changing classrooms. During the first quarter, teachers rotated. High school principal Darren Sirianni said it is too early to tell if this is impacting the rate of positive cases in the school, but the change allows staff to stay in their classrooms and allows for students to be active during the school day.
•congratulated Elizabeth Heim, Maddie Heim, Paige Johnston, Will Kieffer, Kendra Sirianni and Sharon Mai on being accepted into the Dubuque Area Youth Leadership Council (DAYLC).
•learned staff donated $1,050 to the East Dubuque Food Pantry during the past month.
•hired Sandra Schultz as a part-time lunch supervisor.