Belmond-Klemme is in the minority of schools in Iowa offering teacher-led online classes for students during the coronavirus shutdown.
The Iowa governor mandated a shutdown of all schools March 16, two days after telling the public that schools could stay open. “I can not think of a wilder week in my career,” Superintendent Dan Frazier said at the March 19 school board meeting. After the governor’s pronouncement, administrators, teachers and staff began immediately planning to move classes online.
Frazier said the Iowa Department of Education has not provided any leadership during the crisis. “They insisted that we can’t grade assignments (that are provided online),” Frazier said. “But this isn’t Sunday school.” For now, B-K has settled on a pass/fail grading system. “We are building this plane as we fly it,” he added.
The state has also said that districts may have to decide if students should graduate or be promoted to the next grade based on the first three quarters of school work. B-K’s third quarter was set to end Friday, March 20.
Some B-K teachers have set up YouTube channels with lessons that students can watch at their convenience. Other teachers have scheduled times that lectures will be delivered online through Google Classroom. Frazier said school can provide “a sense of normalcy” in these times of uncertainty.
“I want our kids to get everything they can out of the next two months,” Boardmember Gary Berkland said. He was one of four school boardmembers who attended the March 19 meeting over an internet connection. Berkland said the teachers’ efforts to set up online classes “is way above and beyond the call of duty.”
His sentiments were echoed by both building principals (who were also in attendance by computer). “I have never been so proud of my staff,” Elementary Principal Mark Young said. “The teachers are really stepping up and moving forward with a positive attitude.”
Greg Fisher, principal at the junior/senior high school, said, “We are doing what is best for the kids and working to provide great opportunities for them.”
Frazier said that only about 10 percent of Iowa schools are offering online instruction. He said none of the area schools, nor the 50 schools in the Des Moines metro area, have organized such an effort.
The non-certified staff in the district have also been offered jobs in exchange for remaining on the payroll. Aides have been assigned specific students to help with online work or have been tasked to help with daily food deliveries. “There is a job for everyone,” Frazier said. He added that staff members who chose not to work can use sick days or file for unemployment.