Students in the Maquoketa Community School District will attend classes in-person Monday through Thursday, then remotely on Friday this year – assuming nothing changes between now and school going into session.

Maquoketa School Board members on July 27 unanimously approved those revisions to the school calendar. The change is in response to health and safety concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Maquoketa students traditionally attend classes in-person Monday through Friday. In previous years, the district dismissed students early on alternating Wednesdays to provide collaborative time and professional development opportunities for staff and faculty. The revised calendar eliminates those early outs as well as full-day professional development trainings.

Superintendent Chris Hoover explained the district’s rationale for the changes.

“If we expect teachers to teach online and in-person, they need time to prepare quality lessons for the kids,” Hoover told board members during a special meeting July 23 to explain the calendar changes. 

He said Fridays without students provides teachers with needed collaborative-teaching time, a practice the district has implemented and emphasized during the past five years. 

School board member Tanya Roeder, whose children attend in the district, asked how students would be effected.

While they will not be in the building on Friday, students will be responsible for lessons, assignments, etc., on those days, Hoover responded. Students must log on to the district’s online software to complete homework, activities, and any other responsibilities assigned by their teachers. Teachers will post work there and set a due date, and students must complete it by that date. 

“Everything with the online learning will be task-based, so (students) could do (their work) Friday, Saturday, or Sunday so they can have it done by the next class,” added district business manager Kristy Haxmeier.

Students with special needs or who need additional help may be allowed to enter their building to receive additional help on a case-by-case basis.

The schedule change also gives custodial staff a full day to deep-clean and disinfect buildings and surfaces, one more way to limit the spread of COVID-19 before the hundreds of students return to classes on Monday.

Staff who are still working in the building on Fridays will be set up in designated areas to facilitate cleaning, according to high school principal Mark Vervaecke.

The changes will not affect sports schedules nor Clinton Community College classes, Vervaecke said.

Students still will receive the 1,080 hours of instruction required by the state, Hoover said. The revised schedule actually builds in about 1,164 hours of instruction, he noted.

Although bus drivers will not be running regular routes on Friday, they will use the added time to clean and disinfect buses and other school vehicles, Hoover said.