WDMCS Family/Staff Newsletter: Dec. 3, 2020

Waiver Approved to Remain Online Until Winter Break

The Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) approved the waiver to keep ALL PK-12 students in an online learning environment.

Students who learn in-person will return to school Tuesday, Jan. 5 unless the district chooses to bring students back into the classroom prior to winter break. The Board of Education will hold a special meeting Monday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. to hear details from district leadership.

Foundation story graphic

Working as a Community

How Online Learning Came To Be At WDMCS (And Why Your Help Is Still Needed)

When the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) announced earlier in November that all students would transition to fully online learning, the news didn’t phase Valley High School Spanish teacher Krista Becker.

Because as each day of this wacky and unprecedented 2020-21 school year passes, she gains that much more assurance. She wasn’t overwhelmed. She wasn’t intimidated.

She was ready.

“If I think back to August and just how things were compared to now, I feel so much better with what I’m doing,” Becker said. “Every day we’re gaining that confidence and learning new tricks. We have so many tools available to us that we’re now really able to pick and choose what works best in our content area. I have my laptop. I have another screen up. I have everything connected so that it’s projected for my on-site learners and my online learners can see it too.

“I’m starting to feel pretty techy.”

Flashback to the start of this year, where students and teachers interacted either in person and followed proper COVID-19 mitigation strategies, or engaged together over the internet. Recently, WDMCS moved to online learning for all of its learners. Students will remain in this environment through Friday, Dec. 4, as the COVID-19 positivity rate in Polk County settles and student and staff absences decrease. WDMCS is applying for a second waiver to the Iowa Department of Education to continue online learning up to Tuesday, Dec. 22; the district’s winter break is Dec. 23 to Jan. 4.

How did WDMCS reinvent the classroom and prepare for online learning in the first place? For starters: A lot of planning and assistance from district leadership and key staff first began in early March. But there to help connect the dots was the WDMCS Foundation—ready to fundraise and lead the charge of impacting our school district community amid uncertainty.

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WDMCS Community Education Releases 2020 Needs Assessment Results

WDMCS Community Education recently released the findings of its latest needs assessment report, which helps to better understand the needs and concerns of citizens part of the WDMCS community.

Led by the Community Education Advisory Council (CEAC), the assessment serves as a framework to create action and tackle the topics that were addressed by respondents. The report—conducted on a five-year cycle—provides valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses found within the district. The results are also used to guide and prioritize the work of WDMCS Community Education.

Ninety-four individuals participated in focus groups coordinated by CEAC in February and March, including:

  • Community-based and school-based professionals
  • K-12 parents speaking Burmese, English, Hakha Chin, and Spanish
  • Lower-income families
  • High school and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students

The primary questions asked for feedback were:

  • What makes our community a great place to live/go to school?
  • How welcoming and inclusive is our community?
  • What challenges or barriers do students, parents, and/or people in our community experience?

What Are Some Of The Strengths?

WDMCS Community Education Director Shahna Janssen was pleasantly surprised at how well-rated “welcoming” and “inclusion” received. On a sliding scale of 1 being the worst and 10 as the best, the average rating received for these two categories was 7. Some of the highest ratings here came from newcomers and language learners, Janssen said. The lowest ratings came from professionals who work towards welcoming and inclusion but also see firsthand some of the barriers and challenges people may still face.

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View WDMCS COVID-19 Dashboard

The WDMCS online COVID-19 dashboard is updated by noon each weekday with the PREVIOUS day’s data. (Tuesday updates will include Saturday, Sunday, and Monday data.)

School/Community Relations

Laine Mendenhall-Buck


Alexandra Wade



Aaron Young