The Positive Power of Public Schools by Stan Rheingans
It seems cliché now to say that we are living in unprecedented times. Since mid-March, we have seen the world around us transform. In the midst of that change, we have also seen public schools rise to the challenge of supporting students and families.
Public schools are at the bedrock of our community, and we are thankful for the great collaboration between the district, the Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools and our community partners to break down barriers and provide equitable resources to all.
STUDENT FOOD RESOURCES
At the onset of school closures in Iowa, and knowing food access for families can be limited, the district immediately began mobilizing community meal sites. Since March, these sites have served almost 111,000 meals (and almost 150,000 when combined with community partners!) with services continuing through the summer.
TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY
Technology and the internet are critical to students and families, yet many in our community are without adequate access. While this equity issue cannot be addressed by the district alone, we have taken significant steps to reduce this barrier.
In addition to 3,300 district-issued computers in use by each of our high school students, we deployed over 490 laptops to middle school students without an adequate computer and purchased over 350 internet hotspots for families without internet access. The district also purchased and installed outdoor wireless access points at all 19 school buildings to provide free internet access in district parking lots.
To prepare for next year, the district is purchasing 1,900 additional tablets and laptops to support elementary instruction and be available for deployment should another school disruption occur.
Many languages are represented across our community, and to address this potential communication barrier, the district has provided all of its updates and some educational resources in Marshallese and Spanish, our two main non-English languages. Support in 12 other languages is available upon request, and interpreters have been reaching out to English Language Learner families to enhance communication during this time.
LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR
The safety of our students and staff is at the forefront of our work. We continue to review best practices and recommendations from federal, state and local health officials regarding health and safety protocols for welcoming back students and staff.
It is still too early to know exactly what the beginning of the school year will look like, but we do know the district will be prepared to provide required, continuous learning should another disruption occur. As a district, we will develop a model that makes available three required delivery options: Fully in-person education, fully remote education and hybrid in-person/remote education. Based on best practices at the time, we pivot among these as necessary.
Regardless of what the beginning of next school year looks like, we are prepared to welcome students, address learning gaps that occurred during the extended closure, and support students’ transition back to school.
As always, we will do it by putting student first – because, as public schools, that’s what we do!