How we Planned for Continuous Learning

I have received a few questions about the results of the continuous learning survey we sent out to parents, and how we went about making a decision about our continuous learning model.   While a great deal of work went into the decision, I want to share a few key pieces of our work.

We began with the creation of a logic model; a graphic representation of a complex issue, problem, or process.  This was an important step because it allowed us to maintain a focus on our priorities, and key short, medium, and long-term desired outcomes.

We also brought together a representative group of district stakeholders (two board members, administrators, TLC team members, and teachers) to work through several quality/continual improvement processing tools focused on key questions and best practice in continuous learning.  You can access the agenda for that meeting at the link below in order to gain a deeper understanding of what occurred.

DCSD Continuous Learning Prep Meeting Agenda

Additionally, we asked for feedback from parents. You can review combined district results, and building specific results by clicking through the Google slides below.

As a district, we recently went through a process to renew our mission, vision, and values.  My hope is that as you review the process we used to make a decision, and plan for emergency closure continuous learning, you will see evidence of our newly established values.  We believe these are more than just words; we want to live our values through our daily work.

Decorah Community School District is guided by the following core values:

Collaboration and Community – We believe collaboration and community partnerships promote innovation and shared responsibility.

Curiosity and CreativityWe believe curiosity and creativity lead to meaningful learning.

Engagement and ExcellenceWe believe engagement and excellence foster personal ownership, and pride and joy in work and learning.

Equity and Well-beingWe believe equity and well-being ensure a safe learning environment, a sense of belonging, and student success.

Integrity and HumilityWe believe integrity and humility create respectful, trusting relationships.

Stewardship and SustainabilityWe believe stewardship and sustainability promote efficient and effective operations now and in the future.

Thank you to the parents who provided feedback through our surveys, and thank you to our staff who worked collaboratively to meet the needs of our students and families in this unique time.

DCSD Continuous Learning Communication

On Thursday, April 2, 2020 Governor Kim Reynolds determined that it is in the public health interest of the state for Iowa schools to remain closed through Thursday, April 30, 2020.  To help districts and nonpublic schools accommodate student and family needs as flexibly as possible, the Iowa Department of Education has provided guidance on school closures and continuous learning.

Decorah Community School District received this new guidance Friday, March 27, 2020, and in anticipation of the extension of the emergency closure, began work to develop a systemic approach to serving our students and families.  Iowa school districts may consider three approaches to the emergency closure. School districts are required to report which option, or blend of options, have been selected by April 10, 2020.  The three options are:

  • Schools Closed and No Services Provided
  • Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities Provided
  • Required Educational Services Provided

We feel a responsibility to continue to support the learning and well-being of our students.  Therefore, the district will provide a combination of Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities for students in early childhood through grade 8, and Required Educational Services for students in grades 9 through 12.

The primary reason for the decision to provide this blended approach is our desire to enable all current high school students to receive credit for their school work, and to remain on track toward earning all the credits necessary to graduate high school college and/or career ready.  Credit accrual is unique to high school; therefore, the district will not submit an application to the Iowa Department of Education to provide Required Educational Services for early childhood through grade 8.

While the district is blending Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities and Required Educational Services, there will be little difference in the actual day-to-day experience for students and families.  The comparison table provided below answers key questions for both Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities and Required Educational Services.

You should expect to receive building specific communication from principals by the end of the day Friday.  This communication will provide details about how students and families can access the DCSD Continuous Online Learning website, details about grade level appropriate expectations for learners, and contact information for questions.

Please be aware that since Friday and Monday were previously scheduled no school days for staff and students, we will not be asking teachers or students to engage in any continuous learning activities next Monday, April 13.  Continuous Learning will begin Tuesday, April 14.

While the DCSD Continuous Learning site is still in the final stages of development, I want to share some information about how the District will be sharing Learning Opportunities and Required Services.  When we begin services families will receive a link to the DCSD Continuous Learning Website pictured below.  This page will be the starting point for all grade levels.  The first step for students and families will be to click on their building.

You will then be directed to a page that looks like this, and each grade level will be accessible for further exploration.

Here is an example of a page within the Decorah High School Continuous Learning site.  This page gives details about when teachers will be accessible for a video conference, or telephone call to answer questions, or provide support to students or parents.

I am thankful for the quick and thoughtful work our principals and teachers have put into providing continuous learning for our students.  We expect that we will need to make adjustments and improvements to our approach in the days and weeks to come.  Please know our primary focus is supporting the learning and well-being of our students, and we will do everything possible to ensure that the emergency closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic does not have a detrimental impact on any student.

Don’t forget to watch for building specific communication from your principal on Friday.

Thank you for your support of Decorah Schools.

Mark M. Lane, Superintendent of Schools