URBANDALE, Iowa — Thursday is the first day of school for Rolling Green, a year-round elementary school within the Urbandale School District. Even though Governor Kim Reynolds recently signed a proclamation requiring schools to have in-person instruction at least 50 percent of the time, the first few weeks at Rolling Green will be online.
Rolling Green was awarded a special exemption waiver to start the school year online. Remote learning was originally planned in response to the pandemic and after discussions with Polk County Public Health, but it’s only a temporary solution.
“We’re planning for online instruction, we’re planning for what the classroom will look like when we have potentially 30 students in a room trying to social distance, and we’re also planning for what a classroom could look like at 50 percent capacity,” Rolling Green Elementary Interim Principal, Dania Wilson said. “So while our teachers are meeting with our students and doing what they do best, they’re also planning for every type of instruction that they might have to roll into this year.”
Rolling Green is the only school in the state so far to apply and been awarded this special waiver. Much of it has to do with its unique start date. The Governor’s proclamation was announced just six days before their first day of school.
“Even though we’re starting in this remote format our teachers are so excited to see students and families. That has been our focus and our driving force all along is getting to see smiling faces,” Rolling Green Elementary Interim Principal, Dania Wilson said.
The exemption waiver from the Department of Education was only officially approved 48 hours before the start of the school year. The waiver is only valid for two weeks, through August 6th.
“We had students pick up materials [Tuesday]. They had a Chromebook and any other classroom materials that teachers needed to send home to support that instruction so that students could do that from home and meet with their teacher virtually for the next two weeks,” Wilson said.
While students are navigating the continuous, remote learning, it’s back to the drawing board for educators and the district as the clock is winding down for them to get back to the classroom safely.
“What our teachers have been doing all along is just rolling with every change that we have presented them with and doing that with finesse and grace.” Wilson said. “So we’re going to keep planning for everything, which it feels like we’ve been doing already.”
The Department of Education told WHO 13 Gov. Reynolds will be releasing additional guidance on how and when schools would be able to move to 100 percent online learning in the coming days.
Parents can still request to have their children attend class online rather than in person.