Dear Shellsburg Elementary Families,
Welcome to the 2020-21 school year! As I write this, it has been exactly 5 months since the last day we had kids physically in the school. Schools were not meant to be empty, so I can’t tell you how excited I am to start the school year. I know many of you have been curious how school will look this year, and what changes will be implemented. It has been an interesting and busy summer of planning, and at times it has been a moving target as far as what we were planning for. I am excited to finally be able to share information with you, and I thank you for your patience in receiving it. I will apologize in advance for the length, but I hope you will find the information valuable.
First, I want to start by acknowledging the devastation to the community and surrounding areas created by the storm on Aug. 10. I was at school that day, and will never forget the intensity of the storm and the damage it caused. I know there has been great loss suffered by many of you, and it will be a long time before clean-up and rebuilding efforts are finished. I want you to know that the school is here to support the community, and our staff has been out helping with the clean-up. We will have the school safe and ready to open real soon.
As a result of the damage, and because the community needs time to get back on its feet, the Vinton-Shellsburg School Board approved moving the start date of school until Monday, Aug. 31. To accommodate for a later start date, the following days have been added to the school calendar: Jan. 18, Feb. 15, April 6, and May 28. In the event of a snow day, we will look at doing continuous learning from home for that day.
I know we will only have scratched the surface of what will need to be done as a community, but hopefully that allows us the time to have power back and the school ready for students to return. If there are needs for your kids due to the storm damage, please let us know how we can help.
All students need to register for school. If you are choosing in-person, virtual or homeschool you still need to register. The link below will direct you to our district’s registration information.
First Day of School!
The first day of school for Grades 1-5 will be Monday, August 31. This day will be an early dismissal.
Kindergartener’s first day will be Tuesday, September 1.
Preschool students will begin on Wednesday, September 2.
Back to School Conferences
Elementary staff will be holding Back to School Conferences from 5-8 pm on Thursday, August 27. This time is for students to bring their items to school and meet their teacher. We will utilize Conference Scheduler to create a schedule for the evening and will also offer a virtual option. More information on this will be coming soon. Face coverings will be required for students, parents, and staff.
At the August board meeting the school board voted to adopt the following protocol for face coverings.
“Wearing face coverings by students and staff is required in hallways, indoor common spaces, on busses, and when physical distancing is not possible. Students may remove face coverings during instruction if they are distanced 6 feet apart or per teacher instruction. Face covering breaks shall be provided throughout the day.”
The district will also be providing face coverings for students. We are planning on each student having two face masks as well as a face shield, which will be specifically theirs. We would like to keep these masks at school to wash nightly. Students will be allowed to wear their own face coverings as well, as long as they are school appropriate.
If your child is not accustomed to wearing a face mask while at home, you may want to talk with them about the expectation, and possibly even practice wearing one for short periods of time. There are many valid views on mask wearing, and while I respect everyone’s opinion, it will be an expectation at school. Anything you can do at home to put a positive spin on it will help and is appreciated.
Cohort is a term we will be using a lot this year. We will use cohort to describe a group of students that will be in close contact daily. In the elementary setting our cohorts will be based on the classroom teacher. For example, there are five sections of 5th-grade at Shellsburg, and each of these sections will be a cohort. Students in the same cohort will follow the same schedule and spend their school day together to reduce exposure from students in other cohorts.
Arrival & Dismissal
Students arriving on route busses will still be arriving at 7:30 am. We will have the Kindergarten through 2nd grade students go immediately to the lunch room for breakfast, where they will eat with their cohort. The students in 3rd through 5th grade will be on the playground. At approximately 7:50 am, they will switch places. At 8:05 am, all students will be lined up in their cohort to come to their classrooms to start the day. The 5th grade shuttles from Vinton arrive at approximately 8:05 am, and students will enter the building in their cohorts and go to their classrooms. As a cohort, they will go to their lockers, and get breakfast if they haven’t already.
At the end of the day, 5th graders will shuttle back to Vinton at 3 pm. All other students will stay in their classrooms until 3:20 pm, at which time the town students will be dismissed for home and the bus students will be on the playground until busses arrive.
5th Grade Shuttle Bus
5th Grade students that live in Vinton will come to school each day on a shuttle bus. This year there will be three shuttle busses that come to and from Vinton every day. In the morning, they pick up students at Tilford Elementary. The busses like to be pulling out at 7:45 am, so please try to have your child there by that time. If your child would like to eat breakfast at Tilford before they leave, that option is available. Students will be assigned shuttle busses by their cohort, and there will be staff at Tilford on the first day that will help them with that. The busses arrive at Shellsburg at approximately 8:05 am, which is then when we start our day. The shuttle busses are back in the afternoon at 3 pm to take the students back to Vinton. When they return, the drop off is at the Middle School. Busses reach the Middle School at approximately 3:20 pm. It is at this point the Vinton students either get on their route bus, get picked up by family, or walk home. The Middle School staff will be out helping make sure kids get on the right bus, and I will be there the first day as well. I know this system can be confusing, so please feel free to call me or Eric (319-472-3118) at the bus garage with questions.
Our lunch schedule has been adjusted to accommodate social distancing between cohorts, and to allow for cleaning between lunch groups. Table and seating arrangements will allow students to space out. We will also be implementing other modifications to our lunch routine including disposal tableware, milk delivery, and quicker checkout procedures. At this time we are not allowing visitors to come and eat with the students.
Our specials teachers (Music, Art, PE) have worked to create a setting where students will get a great experience, while also being safe. Cohorts will remain separate, and there will be adequate time for cleaning between groups. Materials will not be shared between cohorts, and PE will be held outside to the extent possible.
Students will still have recess. Our cohorts get their own recess times as much as our schedule allows. Students will still be able to use our playground equipment and other areas around the school. When we have indoor recess students will remain in their cohort groups.
This year our building will be using two nurse’s offices. One office will be for our typical medications, injuries, and day to day health needs. A second nurse’s office has been established to use for any student that staff has concerns of having COVID symptoms. Staff will evaluate the students sent to this room and next steps will be determined and parents will be contacted. If your child is symptomatic, please be prepared to have a plan for picking them up as soon as possible. We will be following the District and Benton County Health protocols, which can be found on the school website.
*Find updates and view more information on our Return to Learn page.
Hallways, Lockers & Restrooms
Students will still have access to their lockers and restrooms. Each student is assigned their own locker. Teachers will work together to stagger the times their sections are out at their lockers at arrival and dismissal. Teachers will also work together to stagger times where their sections have regularly scheduled restroom breaks. While students are in the hallways, at their lockers, or using the restroom face coverings will be required.
We will be implementing more frequent cleaning procedures throughout our building. The common touch areas (door handles, light switches, etc…) will be wiped down multiple times a day. Teachers will have access to disinfectant wipes to regularly clean surfaces between groups and activities. Our custodians will be disinfecting our restrooms and classrooms frequently with special equipment.
Please send your student to school each day with a filled water bottle that will be secure during morning transportation. Our water bottle filling stations will operate for students to fill their water bottles during the day but our drinking fountains will be disabled. Bottles will be sent home daily to clean.
Any snacks brought to the building will need to be purchased from a grocery store or licensed vendor. We prefer snacks that are individually wrapped (ex: Little Debbie snacks). Any snacks that are not individually wrapped (ex: Goldfish crackers) will be distributed by school staff.
At this time, visitors will not be allowed in the building in order to reduce exposure. Volunteers will be limited and need to be approved by the principal.
Attendance will not be tracked as in past years. If students are showing symptoms of being ill, we ask that they are kept home. We will be tracking student participation in their learning. Our staff is prepared to work with students and families when absences do occur. If a student is in quarantine, we will work with families to ensure learning is taking place. There will be no awards for attendance.
The Hybrid Learning Plan will only be utilized in the event in-person learning, 5 days a week, is deemed unsafe. Information regarding Hybrid Learning Groups will be released soon so families can prepare in the event this plan is activated.
I appreciate your patience and understanding as we enter uncharted territory this fall. While there may be disagreements on how we should come back, I think we can all agree that our children are deserving of the best education we can give them, and that is what we plan to do. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call me any time at school.
Thank you for your continued support of Shellsburg Elementary and the Vinton-Shellsburg School District.