I realize you are getting many emails coming your way since electronic communication seems to be our most efficient mode while we develop an unprecedented academic environment for students and staff. And, yet, here is another long message, so we will try to streamline things as best we can! Please stick with us and read through all the information.
Since the derecho hit August 10th, we’ve needed to significantly change our Return to Learn plan and here is what we’ve been working on:
- Academic return: we reallocated students and staff from damaged buildings, adjusted from in-person learning to fully online in secondary schools, conducted professional learning adjustments for staff to prepare for yet another Return to Learn plan, readjusted curriculum, re-routed transportation schedules, provided social-emotional support for staff and families
- Responsibility to district-owned Kingston Stadium: with pre-commitments for athletic events at district-owned property quickly upon us, a new safety protocol plan was developed and implemented in a short timeframe and with community damage obstacles
- Development plans for re-opening Fine Arts: within the parameters of pre-derecho summer decisions, post-derecho damage to facilities, and co-curricular mandates for school start date, began the development of a plan that provides opportunities for Fine Arts engagement at the onset of the unique school year
The main reason for this email is to provide information - and support - around our Fine Arts programs. To frame our development plan, here are statements of support for arts education that have been endorsed by national arts organizations, and ones that CRCSD believe in too:
- Arts education supports the social and emotional well-being of students, whether through distance learning or in person.
- Arts education nurtures the creation of a welcoming school environment where students can express themselves in a safe and positive way.
- Arts education is part of a well-rounded education for all students as understood and supported by federal and state policymakers.
Iowa Department of Education Definitions May Help us All Understand a Bit More
Another source that helps frame our decisions and development plan is the Department of Education’s definitions of what is a co-curricular activity (tied to classroom curriculum) and extracurricular activity (not tied to classroom curriculum). This distinction guides what we sometimes can and cannot make happen during a double challenge of pandemic and natural disaster, and when a new school start date was being negotiated with the state due to the derecho damage.
- Curricular activities are those activities that are a part of the curriculum (visual arts and music are curricular activities)
- Co-curricular activities are those activities that are outside of but usually complementing the regular curriculum. (marching band, stagecraft, and show choir are co-curricular activities)
- Extracurricular activities are defined as those school-based activities that are not tied to the curriculum. (athletics are an extracurricular activity)
Marching band, concert band, concert choir and orchestra in many schools are both co-curricular offerings and a curricular offering. Show choir, jazz band, jazz choir, solo and small ensemble music offerings in many schools are just co-curricular offerings but may, in some instances, be both curricular and co-curricular.
For co-curricular activities, establishing a school start date implies that the first day of school is the date curricular assessment may begin. Rehearsals, practices, and performances may be held prior to the school start date but those rehearsals, practices, and performances may not be assessed (graded) as part of the formal curriculum until the school start date has occurred.
If the activity is extracurricular, scheduling the activity prior to August 23 is a local decision by the district’s administration, or any relevant governing body. The Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union have established dates for when official fall sports practices may begin.
Background (pre-derecho) on Marching Band, Show Choir and Theatre Decisions
- On July 21 (pre-derecho), metro-area marching band directors communicated their decision to not hold the six marching band competition events due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Investment in choreography and uniforms was placed on hold.
- It was communicated that practices will continue, but the derecho storm occurred August 10, and this eliminated the opportunity to use the school buildings
- Marching Bands were operating under Linn County Public Health guidance of no more than 10-15 persons meeting at a time. That meant no full band rehearsals. Some directors were able to have drumline and color guard rehearsals in prep for some potential performances in the fall. Note: Jefferson did not have access to their facility in June due to a power outage.
- Directors were also in the process of researching and ordering bell covers (PPE) as recommended by IHSMA. The derecho storm altered those plans.
- On July 17 (pre-derecho), metro-area show choir directors communicated their decision to not hold the upcoming show choir camps and competition events due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Investment in choreography and costumes was placed on hold.
- Show choir is NOT cancelled, but it will look different.
- Metro-theatre directors announced that virtual and live streaming options are being explored for fall musical and theatre performances, with the potential of in-person productions in spring 2021.
Whew! That was a lot of information - and it was the abbreviated version! What I’m sure you’re most interested in is what the next steps are:
- The band directors from Jefferson, Kennedy, and Washington met August 31st to map out needs and a plan forward. Priorities include:
- Securing and creating PPE in the form of masks and bell covers and following protocols as recommended by the National Federation of High Schools, Iowa High School Music Association, and our health departments for the safety and health of our students is our top priority. Aerosol studies conducted at the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Maryland are serving as a guide for moving forward with music education in our schools.
- Meeting with students (in-person and virtually) to connect, assess student needs including instruments, music, transportation, technology, internet, and other needs
- Planning instructional design and student experiences for the complete academic year
- Show choir directors will create a reopening plan
- Show choir classes will be restructured
- Virtual choreography sessions will be established
- Altered rehearsal opportunities will be researched
- Fees will be reduced
- Note: show choir directors from the Midwest have been meeting to brainstorm ideas
- Musical and theatre directors will establish a plan
- Plan for a Fall 2020 as well as Spring 2021 potential performances
- Develop new online curriculum for Stagecraft class
- Musical instruments and visual art material replacement will be assessed via CRCSD restoration insurance process
- Curricular music classes (choirs, bands, orchestra) will take place via online instruction
- CRVA students can participate in music classes. Contact your home school for more information.
Please be looking for your respective school’s Fine Arts communications for ongoing progress.
Safety mitigation procedures being used in music curriculum
For brass players in band, the district is providing a bell cover to mitigate aerosol projections. Masks with slits will be needed by nearly all band students and we will need donations from band parents and community members to outfit every band student. For choir rooms, a HEPA air filter is being provided by the district.
Thanks for your patience as all decisions, planning, and heartache align simultaneously with revised Return to Learn plans post derecho and current pandemic. Please know we all want to see students singing, acting, dancing, creating, and marching as soon as possible! We miss this all so much.
Best to you,