Back to school, finally

STC returns in person and online following break

Students arrive at South Tama Elementary Tuesday, September 8 for the first day of school. Tuesday’s group of students was Cohort A and Thursday Cohort B will have their first day of school. Allison Graham/News Chronicle

After a five month hiatus due to the pandemic and summer break, South Tama County schools are back in session.

STC opted for a hybrid model placing students into two cohorts.

Cohort A began classes Tuesday, September 8 and 9. Cohort B began Thursday, September 10 and 11. Cohorts will alternate Wednesdays.

STC administrators gave an update to how the first day went at a school board meeting Tuesday evening.

For the most part things went overwhelming well at each building however there are of course kinks still being worked out such as bussing and technology.

Ashley Steven and Michal Steven walk their children Carter and Bently to the front doors of the STC Elementary Tuesday, September 8 for the first day of school. Allison Graham/News Chronicle

“I think today overall went extremely well. I was pleased,” Brad Schweppe, Elementary Principal said.

Schweppe shared he observed students arriving at school with their masks in place, which is a requirement this year. Students did well with new expectations such as more hand-washing and social distancing.

A couple of things the elementary is working on includes bussing and troubleshooting parent and student access to Google classroom.

Middle school students in 6-8th grades began the year online after the August 10 derecho damaged the STC Middle School building. The building will not be usable until December at the earliest.

Middle school students are either doing live classes with teachers or course work assigned via google classroom.

Denison Castro Sical, Fernando Castro Sical and Juan Lux walk toward the elementary building Tuesday, Sept. 8 for the first day of school.

“I know that there will be tech issues and we continue to work through those,” Ben Adams, Middle School Principal said.

Some families are still experiencing internet outages due to the derecho. Space at the partnership center gym was provided for students who needed internet access.

“We are doing everything we can to support our families who don’t have internet at home,” Adams said.

Schedules at the high school are still being worked out to help accommodate students. But all in all things at the high school went well for Cohort A.

“It was nice to have students back in our building today,” Mark Groteluschen, High School Principal said.

Schedules are quite different this year according to Groteluschen and it will take some adjustment.

Fifth grade which has moved back to the elementary building will begin September 14. Preschool is sent to begin September 21 at St. Pats in Tama.

Learning Labs

Something new being offered this year are Learning Labs.

Learning Labs are a structured childcare program that provides instruction, breakfast and lunch throughout the day.

Learning Labs are available to elementary families who opted for the hybrid model. Students can attend a Learning Lab on the days they are not in school. Families who opted for all virtual learning do not qualify for Learning Labs.

There are two locations, one at the Christ United Methodist Church in Toledo and one at the Wieting Theater.

Numbers were pretty low on the first day. One site had three students and the other had four.

The program is being headed up by STC Elementary Music Teacher, Marilyn Rippy.

Rippy explained the reason for the low numbers is because they are not providing transportation to the sites.

Superintendent Jared Smith shared that officials were worried they would receive an overwhelming response and need for the Learner Labs but luckily that isn’t the case and spots are open. Each site can have up to 12 students.

“It’s a great alternative for students,” said Smith.

Parents of hybrid learners who are interested in taking advantage of the Learners Labs can find more information on the South Tama County Community School District Facebook page.

Parents can also find more information regarding hotspots on Facebook. The school recently ordered an additional 200 hotspots.