School closures extended through April

By Jim Johnson and James Jennings
Posted 4/8/20

With Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order last week to extend school closures through the month of April, schools were told they must inform the state whether their distance learning will be voluntary or …

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School closures extended through April


With Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order last week to extend school closures through the month of April, schools were told they must inform the state whether their distance learning will be voluntary or mandatory for students.

While area districts were coming up with a plan for working with students through the end of the month, they are also discussing the possibility of the school closures extending into May or longer.



Mid-Prairie Superintendent Mark Schneider said that principals and teachers are meeting this week to put together options for learning.

“The principals and teachers will be communicating with you once our plans are finalized,” Schneider wrote in an email to parents. “This week will be busy as we explore new learning options and make adequate preparations.”

High School Principal Jay Strickland messaged parents on Monday night.

“At this time, MPHS will move forward with a required learning plan that will allow students to earn credit for courses,” Strickland wrote. “We are in the process of finalizing details this week and I will send specific information out to parents and students on Monday on what this looks like for MPHS.”

Schneider acknowledged that Internet access may be an issue for some families.

“Providing Internet to families that cannot afford it has been more of a challenge,” Schneider said. “The district was able to secure 40 Internet hot spots for those families to use while school is closed.

“The hot spots arrived last week and Technology Coordinator Jaynie Bontrager has been busy setting those up for use.  Learning Design Leader Glenda Seward has taken the lead in getting these hot spots to families that don’t have any Internet.”

Another option, Schneider said, is to access school guest networks from school parking lots “as long as they observe appropriate social distancing.”

Schneider said that the district has also been working with local Internet providers.

“I have also been in contact with the general managers of the local telephone companies, Kalona Cooperative Technology Company,  Sharon Telephone Company, and Wellman Cooperative Telephone Association, and want to thank them for their willingness to work with Mid-Prairie families to install and/or upgrade home Internet,” Schneider said. “Additionally, Mediacom currently has a special on Internet connections for families.”


Highland and Lone Tree

Superintendent Ken Crawford, who oversees both the Highland and Lone Tree school districts, has spent a great deal of time since Friday talking with teachers and administrators about the best choice for continuing education for students during the school shutdown.

“With both schools, the thought was let’s continue to be optional,” he said. “If it extends past April 30, we may change our plan.”

Crawford has stressed with teachers the importance of developing a routine. He’s asked teachers to have daily assignments posted by 10 a.m.

“I think everybody having a routine is important,” he said. “I think everybody misses going to school and having a routine.”

At a recent school board meeting, the superintendent highlighted a schedule that Lone Tree kindergarten teacher Kristin Figueroa developed for her young students that covered the entire day, from morning until bedtime. It included time for school-like tasks such as reading and other activities such as playing board games.

Another discussion topic is going to pass-fail grades rather than letter grades for the remainder of the year.

The staff has begun talking about options for graduation if public gatherings continue to be limited in May. One possibility – just a suggestion at this point – is having graduation in conjunction with homecoming in the fall.

The schools continue to provide lunches for students twice a week. On Monday in the Highland district, 260 lunches were provided at Highland Elementary and 60 lunches in Ainsworth.

Crawford noted that the district started two weeks ago providing 190 lunches, and now they are providing more than 300 each day.

In Lone Tree, the district is providing about 40 lunches each time.

“The food service people have been working hard,” Crawford said.


Hillcrest Academy

Hillcrest Principal Dwight Gingerich said that the school has had mandatory distance learning since the initial school closure announcement in mid-March.

“Given we are a nonpublic, we’ve had the freedom to do required learning from the outset,” Gingerich said. “We will continue to do required learning rather than the voluntary.

“Our students work is being graded. Our teachers are exercising flexibility and considering the other variables at play, as they plan and execute their lessons.”

He said that the online learning has been going well.

“Our students are really doing a nice job of engaging, and our instructors are working hard to be creative and make this work,” he said. “One of our teachers commented that it’s been exhausting but satisfying, and our people are really enjoying the opportunity to connect on a regular basis.”


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