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Western Dubuque schools announced their Return to Learn plan structure last week. A special meeting was held July 27 to discuss more in-depth details about the plan.

At last week’s meeting, it was announced that masks will be mandatory for every student second through 12th grade. Social distancing will be tough for the district since they have a limited amount of space.

Custodians will follow regular cleaning schedules but more disinfecting will be done. In order for the disinfectant to be effective, it has to stay on surfaces for 10 minutes. Teachers will have hand sanitizer and spray bottles in their classrooms, and they will sanitize their room twice a day as well.

“We have received positive feedback to our plan,” Western Dubuque Superintendent Rick Colpitts said. “Social distancing is tough because we have limited space, but we will do everything we can.”

Water fountains are turned off at the schools, but the water bottle filling stations will be on. Students will have to bring their own water bottles. The CDC recommends that air conditioner settings be changed to bring more fresh air into the buildings. Protection for secretaries will be available as well. Plexiglass will separate them from the students.

As far as lunches go, that will look different at each school. Staggering lunches and using more space are options the district are looking at. A goal at lunch is to keep classes away from each other, not keeping students socially distant. This means that students would interact with people they are in classrooms with. This same idea goes with classes.

“It might mean moving part of a class to a common area for a portion of the day,” Colpitts said.

If a student in a class does contract COVID-19, staff will be able to track who they have been near throughout the day. Assigned seating charts on buses and in classrooms will make this possible. However, the district is waiting for more guidance from the state on how they will deal with the students who have been around the infected student.

Classes like choir, band and physical education are going to go on as planned with the same modifications as other classes.

“We are doing the best we can,” Colpitts said, “but a lot of this is out of our control.”

So far, 156 students have signed up for virtual learning in the district. This is about 10 in every grade, scattered across every building.

“These parents have legitimate concerns about their kids,” Colpitts said. “We wanted to make sure that we offered virtual learning.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has the power to shut down schools even though she ordered them open for in-person classes. She could change her mind at any time. Western Dubuque believes they can make this transition with ease.

“We have a plan and know it works,” Colpitts said. “We will have some people thinking that this is not what they signed up for. I don’t think the governor will shut down schools again. Our plans are not COVID-free plans. They are minimizing plans.”