Updates from Superintendent Mike McGrory
Coronavirus (COVID-19) information
COVID-19 Updates for Ottumwa Schools
In an effort to keep students, staff, parents, and the entire community aware of how COVID-19 is impacting our district, we plan to share as much information as possible while protecting the privacy of those affected. Look to this website daily for updates regarding the reports of positive cases for students and staff by building.
Data will be updated daily after 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Staff not assigned to a school building will be listed under "other district employees."
Only individuals identified as close contacts will be notified about positive COVID-19 cases in the district. Appropriate actions will be taken by the district to thoroughly clean, sanitize, and disinfect any impacted areas.Classes will continue unless announced otherwise. We urge our staff and families to continue to wear masks when in public, social distance, cover coughs, and wash hands frequently to reduce the spread of this virus.
February 11, 2021
We recognize that for parents and teachers there has been less than normal face-to-face interactions this school year. As you know the relationship between school and home can be a powerful partnership and is strengthened by making connections with each other. To gauge the comfort level with face-to-face conferences we surveyed teachers in January concerning their comfort level in hosting face to face parent-teacher conferences.
Throughout this challenging year, many long-standing traditions needed to be put on the back burner, as we keep the health and safety of all of our stakeholders at the forefront of our decision making process.
The results of the teacher survey were mixed, with a fairly equal number of staff indicating they were comfortable offering face to face conferences to staff members having strong reservation and preferred conferences to be held virtually.
After much consideration and continuing to monitor our COVID situation, and in consultation with Wapello County Public Health, I have decided the prudent thing to do is to host virtual conferences only.
Buildings are currently scheduling conference options for both face to face and virtual. If you originally scheduled a face to face conference, please contact your teacher and set up a virtual appointment. I recognize this solution is not without its flaws but we need to continue to stay vigilant and support and value our teacher's feedback and concerns.
On a similar note, I am excited to report that 200 of our staff members received their first Covid vaccine last week. The remaining staff will be vaccinated a week from Friday. This means that by the end of March, all staff who indicated an interest will have received both shots. While CDC recommends that we continue to social distance, wear masks, and wash hands frequently, we hope that this will ease the stress that many staff and families have experienced over the past several months.
We appreciate your ongoing support as we have navigated through a school year fraught with challenges never experienced before by school districts.
January 1, 2021
Informational links on Covid-19 in other languages:
- Chuuckese - https://health.hawaii.gov/ola/covid-19-met-mei-auchea-omw-kopwe-sinei/
- Marshallese - https://health.hawaii.gov/ola/covid-19-ta-eo-kwoj-aikuj-jel-%cc%85-kake/
- Samoan - https://health.hawaii.gov/ola/covid-19-o-mea-e-tatau-ona-e-iloa/
- Chinese/Mandarin/Cantonese - https://health.hawaii.gov/ola/covid-19-%e6%b3%a8%e6%84%8f%e4%ba%8b%e9%a0%85/
December 11, 2020
A reminder that Ottumwa is offering free meals to all students this school year due to Covid-19.
December 18, 2020
OTTUMWA SPECTATOR UPDATE
This week, Governor Reynolds updated spectator limitations at school activities. Based on this info, Ottumwa schools will continue to limit each participant to 2 tickets for immediate family but will now allow the holders of those tickets to be accompanied by members of their household.
All household members wishing to attend should arrive at the ticket gate together and sit together. All attendees will need to purchase a ticket or use a pre-purchased pass to enter and will be required to wear a mask during the duration of the event.
November 13, 2020
Dear Ottumwa Schools Parents/Guardians,
With the challenge of staff shortages due to COVID-19 cases, the district has decided to switch to virtual instruction on Monday and Tuesday, November 23 and 24 for students in grades PK-12. Wednesday, November 25 is already a non-school day due to conferences. This decision was based on several factors:
- Staff shortages make it difficult for our schools to provide a quality educational environment in which to learn.
- Shifting to virtual instruction closes district buildings for 10 days, which allows maintenance staff to do a deep cleaning of all buildings.
- The extended break provides an opportunity to decrease COVID-related absences after Thanksgiving. Currently, the number of staff in quarantine continues to rise, making daily staffing a challenge in several buildings.
- Switching to virtual instruction will allow teachers to practice and refine their teaching skills in the event of future shifts to virtual instruction.
You will receive additional communication from your teacher/school regarding student expectations during virtual instruction. Student attendance is required and students who do not participate will be counted absent.
This shift in instruction for our face-to-face students does not impact students currently enrolled in our Bulldog Virtual Learning (BVL) program. Students in BVL will continue their online instruction as normal.
Food service is also putting together a plan to provide breakfast and lunch to all students in grades PK-12. Watch for details.
The pandemic continues to challenge our district and community. Taking advantage of already scheduled days off and the upcoming holiday break allow us to deep clean buildings and hopefully decrease absences when we return face-to-face on November 30. These measures are also the least disruptive to student learning.
We want to continue to remind everyone that the best ways to reduce the spread is to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Practice social distancing (6 feet away as much as possible).
- Wear a face mask.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces every day. High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
If you have questions, please contact your school for additional information.
November 11, 2020
As the number of positive cases in Wapello County continue to rise, the district is starting to feel the effects in terms of staffing.
This week at Evans, we’ve seen an increase in the number of staff who are absent and with that, an increase in the number of positions left uncovered due to a lack of substitutes. Today, the number of absences was the highest yet. Seven teachers were absent, with 5.5 uncovered. We also had 14 support staff absent with 8 of those positions uncovered. These numbers make it difficult for our school to provide a quality educational environment in which to learn.
For that reason, we are shifting instruction at Evans to virtual for Thursday and Friday, November 12 and 13. What this means is that all students will stay at home and receive instruction virtually for the next two days. Students will be expected to attend a Zoom meeting with their advisory teacher at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. They will receive instructions and assignments for the next two days at that time. Attendance will be taken.
All extra curricular activities have been cancelled for the next two days. We are working to reschedule these events at a later date.
Shifting to virtual instruction will allow district staff to deep clean Evans on Thursday and Friday. We feel this decision is in the best interest of our students and staff members when looking at the increase in staffing shortages in recent days linked to Evans.
These are challenging times. The health and safety of our students and staff will continue to drive our decisions in terms of how we provide instruction over the next few months. We appreciate your ongoing support and will continue to keep you informed through emails, text messages, voicemail, and web posts.
If you have questions or concerns regarding technology or internet, please contact Evans at 641-684-6511. Staff will be monitoring the phones during this school closure.
October 1, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
We appreciate your ongoing support as we continue to navigate this pandemic, keeping student and staff health and safety in the forefront of our decision-making processes. Yesterday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) made a change on quarantine recommendations for people that have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19.
This guidance recommends that close contacts (less than six feet for more than 15 minutes) of COVID-positive cases will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days if a face covering was worn consistently and correctly by the positive case and close contacts. The positive case must isolate. If exposure occurs while a student is not wearing a mask (ie. lunch), they will need to quarantine at home.
With this new guidance, the type of face covering is also very important. Prior to these updates, any face covering including face shields, neck gaiters, and bandanas were allowed. As part of this new guidance, public health will not count face shields, neck gaiters, and bandanas as appropriate face coverings to avoid the 14 day quarantine. Therefore, we are asking all students and staff to wear only approved masks.
Close contacts will continue to be notified by Wapello County Public Health when there is a need to quarantine your student.
Please see the chart below for appropriate types of masks.
We ask that this change begin no later than Monday, October 5. Thank you for your help with implementing these new changes.
Mike McGrory, Superintendent
Ottumwa Face Mask Protocol
for Students & Staff - 2020-2021 School Year
Studies have shown that when worn properly, wearing a mask helps reduce the spread of the coronavirus by reducing droplet transmission between people. As a reminder, face masks do not replace the need to maintain social distancing, frequent hand washing, and our rigorous cleaning and disinfecting routines.
APPROVED FACE MASKS
A mask is defined as a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured with straps that loop over the ears or tie around the back of the head. Acceptable masks may be factory-made or sewn by hand or machine.
Please follow the guidance below for applying, removing, and cleaning the types of masks approved for wear by school district staff and students. Hand hygiene should be performed before and after applying and removing a mask.
Type and Intended Use of Masks
Disposable Medical Mask
|Hook loops snugly around ears. Ensure that mask covers nose and mouth at all times and is secured under the chin.||Secure ties to head or hook loops snugly around ears. Ensure that mask covers nose and mouth at all times and is secured under the chin.|
|Unhook from ears and pull away from face without touching the inside of the mask.Fold so the inner part of the mask faces inward. Dispose immediately into a trash recepticle.||Untie or unhook from ears and pull away from face without touching the inside of the mask. Fold so the inner part of the mask faces inward.|
Dispose immediately into trash can.
|Wash after daily use in washing machine with other laundry OR by hand soaking in a solution of 1/3rd cup of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water. Rinse clear. Place in the dryer or hang dry.|
- Staff and Students may wear personal, clean, well-maintained masks appropriate for the school environment that meet one of the approved face mask types identified in the chart above.
- When social distance can not be maintained, staff and students must wear a face mask at all times in hallways, classrooms, public spaces and other common areas across district spaces.
- Staff and Students should remain mindful not to unnecessarily touch masks except for removal for meals and breaks.
- Consider sending extra masks with your student in case of mask contamination.
Students/staff may remove face masks (take a “mask break”) when:
- Eating or drinking if seated six feet away from others.
- Engaged in any activity for which maintaining at least 6 feet apart is assured
- At recess and outdoor PE, masks will not be required. Parents choosing to have their student wear masks during this time must communicate this expectation with their student.
- Students will be instructed when they may take “mask breaks” and remove their masks, such as during meal times, when outdoors, and more than six feet apart from other people.
Exceptions to wearing a mask include:
- Individuals who are communicating (or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability) where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication may consider using another type of face covering such as a plastic clear mask, understanding the face shield does not offer the same protection as a mask.
- Students/staff who have trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance
- Students who, due to their disability, cannot wear masks will work with the IEP team to problem-solve safe solutions
September 29, 2020
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is making a change on quarantine recommendations for people that have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19. This applies in non-healthcare, non-residential settings only, including schools. Close contacts of COVID-positive cases will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days if a face covering was worn consistently and correctly by the positive case and close contacts. The positive case must isolate. The close contacts should self-monitor.
- People currently in quarantine may be released from quarantine if a face covering was worn consistently and correctly by the positive case and close contacts during exposure.
- If the positive case wore a face covering, but close contacts did not, those close contacts must be quarantined.
- If the positive case did not wear a face covering, close contacts must quarantine whether or not they wore a face covering.
See the link below for the complete press release and a chart illustrating the changes.
August 28, 2020
We have completed our first full week in the OCSD. I’m proud of the efforts of our staff and students to keep our school environments as safe as possible during these challenging times. We also appreciate your patience and support as we implement many new processes and procedures for the first time. We continue to work closely with Wapello County Public Health and Emergency Management as we navigate how to address positives and exposed cases, when and if they arise.
Building principals are doing a great job communicating their building procedures. Many are now using a new communication tool, Remind. Watch for more details on that soon.
Prime Time Youth Care
To keep our student contacts more limited, we now offer Prime Time care in every elementary building before and after school. This fee-based program helps our parents whose schedules don’t align with the start and end of the instructional day. For additional information, contact 641-683-6337.
Pickwick Early Childhood Center
There are still openings available at Pickwick Early Childhood Center. The center operates a full-day program for both three- and four-year-olds Monday through Thursday with wrap around services available for free before and after school care. On Fridays, the program operates as a fee-based program from 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. Contact 641-684-7179 for details.
Bulldog Virtual Learning
Almost 900 students are taking advantage of virtual instruction for at least the first trimester/semester of the 2020-21 school year. Parents in this program can also participate in the school lunch program. Check the website for details at: https://www.ottumwaschools.com/bulldog-virtual-learning/school-meals.
Have a great weekend Bulldog Nation and please stay well.
August 19, 2020
Video Series - Return to Learn (click the links below for more information)
- Part I - Superintendent Mike McGrory talks about efforts to social distance and transportation
- Part II - Mike Steimsma, Director of Student Supports, talks about health
- Part III - Jeff Kirby, Director of Innovative Programs, talks about Bulldog Virtual Learning
- Part IV - Yvonne Johnson, Director of Food and Nutrition Services, talks about school breakfast and lunch programs
August 19, 2020
Ottumwa welcomed 21 new teachers to the district last week and all teachers were back in their classrooms on Monday as we continue to prepare for the first day of school on August 24. A lot of work looks like a normal year, teachers attending professional learning, meetings, and getting their classrooms ready. What looks different is the mitigation efforts everyone is putting in place to create a safe learning environment for students during this pandemic.
Mitigation Efforts Continue
OCSD custodial staff have been busy getting buildings ready for staff and students. Work continues on disconnecting all air hand dryers and replacing them with touchless paper dispensers, disconnecting water fountains, installing additional water bottle filling stations, and installing close to 90 hand sanitizer stations throughout the district.
Prime Time Youth Care
The district’s school-age before and after school care program is making changes in an effort to keep students in smaller cohort groups. Starting on the first day of school, each elementary school will house a PTYC program site. These will result in no busing, keeping students in smaller groups, and limiting exposure to students in other buildings. The program will utilize Remind, a new parent communication tool, for drop off and pick up to reduce the number of visitors in our schools. The program will no longer operate as a drop in program. Parents will be required to schedule their child’s attendance to assist with meeting staffing needs. Students who do not pre-register will not be allowed to attend. For more information, contact Becky at 641-683-6337.
Masks, masks, masks
A huge shout out to Grace Church in Ottumwa. Volunteers have been busy all summer making masks for all staff and several hundred students. We appreciate their efforts to keep our students and staff safe. Mask production has been led by Carol Ryan and Deb Stephenson, with assistance from a team of people who have cut, sewn, and ironed hundreds of masks. #ittakesavillage
Summer Feeding Program
Our program is winding down this week and the effort to feed over 500 families every day of the summer could not have happened without the support of our volunteers. We thank those who helped package and distribute meals throughout the summer. One team mentioned they handed out over 6,000 meals. #Bulldogpride
Bulldog Virtual Learning
Families who signed up for a minimum of a trimester or semester of virtual learning are doing a virtual orientation this week. The district has also completed the hiring process for teachers who will be leading this instruction for grades K-12. Virtual classes begin on August 24.
Internet and Devices
Installation of internet for families without access is scheduled this week as we prepare for the first day of school. The last scheduled day for device distribution for Evans and OHS students is August 20 at their school .
Teachers are thinking outside the box for ways to keep students socially distanced while in the classroom. In one Horace Mann classroom, desks have been removed and replaced with totes. Students will keep all their personal items in the totes throughout the day and be seated on the floor, socially distanced. Another classroom is using hula hoops to remind students to social distance.
August 14, 2020
Parents and Guardians,
The start of this school year will be like nothing any of us have experienced in our lifetime. I want to assure families that we are working to ensure that the school environment is as safe as possible. Our biggest challenge will be social distancing, due to the physical sizes of our buildings and classrooms. I am proud of the efforts our building principals have taken to address this concern, as well as many others. Requiring masks for all staff and students when in the building is another strategy that will help keep our staff and students safe and healthy.
All classes, both face to face and virtual, will begin on Monday, August 24. Here are some updates for the 2020-21 school year:
- Elementary parents will receive a letter regarding class assignment the week of August 17.
- Kindergarten students will attend a shortened day either Monday, August 24 or Tuesday, August 25 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Parents will receive notification from their school. Due to health and safety reasons, parents will not be able to come for the first hour as they have in the past.
- All students will receive three face masks from the district for school use. These will become the personal property of each student. Families are asked to follow CDC guidelines for mask washing after each use.
- All schools will limit non-essential visitors into the buildings.
- Breakfast--Students who eat breakfast will be given a "grab and go." We will also limit the number of students in lunchrooms.
Our custodial staff are taking steps to ensure buildings are kept clean and that staff have the PPE they need, including disinfectant wipes and spray, hand sanitizer, face coverings, etc. Additional cleaning measures have been put in place, such as high touch areas being cleaned daily.
A variety of mitigation strategies are being put into place, including:
- Installing 18 new bottle filling stations to replace drinking fountains.
- Providing staff an online COVID-related health and safety class
- Installing hand sanitizing stations
- Installing plexiglass barriers for building secretaries
- Limiting non-essential building visitors
- Canceling all large group assemblies and school gatherings until further notice
- Providing infrared thermometers for all nurses
- Disabling hand dryers in order to reduce circulation of germs
- Reducing the number of individuals allowed in common areas
- Increasing air flow and ventilation in areas when possible
- Training substitute teachers on building health and safety procedures
- Increasing distancing and reducing contact by revising the following:
- Room arrangements
- Meal schedules
- Recess, passing times
- Cohort grouping
- Beginning/end of day procedures
- Maximizing space between students when possible.
- Positioning all students so they face the same direction.
- Reducing student movement by holding art and music in the classroom.
- Holding recess outdoors when weather permits and limiting shared equipment.
- All large group events have been put on hold.
- Students will access library books via e-books or delivering “checked out” books to the classroom.
Watch for more updates in the coming week.
July 14, 2020
Parents and Guardians,
My name is Mike McGrory and I am Ottumwa’s new superintendent. I’m excited to return to Ottumwa, where I spent three years early in my administrative career as the principal at Evans Middle School. Since my first day, I have spent time meeting with district staff and community leaders, as well as becoming familiar with the Ottumwa district. I plan to continue getting to know the staff and community over the coming months.
For those of you who might not know my background, I have spent the last seven years in Muscatine, first as principal at Muscatine High School from 2013-2016, then as associate superintendent from 2016-present. Prior to Muscatine, I also served as principal at Central High School in Hinsdale, IL, Ames High School, Evans Middle School, and Lone Tree.
RETURN TO LEARN - I know many of you are thinking about fall and wondering what school will look like. Ottumwa Schools recently submitted their Return to Learn Plan to the Iowa Department of Education. The district will share recommendations with the Board on Monday, July 27. There is also a link to our Return-to-Learn plan on the website. Click on the Coronavirus Update link, then Return-to-Learn under Important Links: https://www.ottumwaschools.com/updates.
VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION OPTION - The district is in the process of creating a virtual option for parents who do not want to send their children to school this fall due to COVID-19. This will be available for students in grades K-12. More information will be available on this in the next few weeks.
INTERNET ACCESS - The Board of Education approved a contract with Mediacom to assist our families who don’t have internet access. This will be important when/if instruction needs to take place at home from time to time. Watch for details on how to sign up for this option. This option is only for families who don’t currently have internet.
LAPTOP COMPUTERS - The district will provide a device to every student in grades K-12. Watch for details on device distribution coming in August.
I look forward to meeting you and your student(s) as we strive to engage, educate, and empower every student every day.
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