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FD schools to continue hybrid learning

Plan to be in place through December

The Fort Dodge Community School District will continue using its hybrid model of instruction for the rest of November and December.

Earlier this month, the school district had moved to the hybrid model because of the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the community. This model included half of students going to school in person two days a week, with the other half doing virtual distance learning those days, and then the groups switching for two days. The model also included a day each week for students who need extra help to come in and meet with their teachers. Students were tentatively set to return to classrooms full time on Nov. 30.

Jessica Biggs, an English language arts teacher at Fort Dodge Middle School, had attended the FDCSD Board of Education meeting on Monday night to address the school board during the public comment period in order to ask that the board continues the use of the hybrid model. She said with Webster County’s current positivity rate of nearly 26%, moving students back into the school buildings full time next week, as was originally the goal, would not be a wise decision.

“The spread of COVID is very widespread in our schools and we want to keep not only our students safe but our teachers and our community members,” Biggs said.

Minutes later, Superintendent Jesse Ulrich told the board he planned to extend the district’s use of the hybrid model through the end of the calendar year.

“Virus aside, our preferred method is face-to-face, because there is no substitution for a teacher in front of a child and having a relationship with that child in an educational setting,” he said. “However, with COVID, obviously things have to be different.”

Ulrich said he met with district leaders, parents and students earlier on Monday to discuss that decision.

“We don’t make these decisions in a vacuum,” he said, adding that he also meets regularly with Webster County Public Health and UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge to review data on positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Fort Dodge schools will continue the hybrid model for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break. Winter break will also be extended by two days, beginning on Dec. 21 now. The last day of school before winter break will be Dec. 18.

Group A will be in school Mondays and Tuesdays, with Group B in the classroom on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will be the optional intervention day for students who need extra help.

On the days students are not in the classrooms, they will be participating in distance learning with their classroom teacher.

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