“It’s been a journey”
By Jennifer Bissell

“It has been an interesting journey with some wicked challenges, to say the least.”

That is how MFL MarMac and Eastern Allamakee School District Superintendent Dale Crozier describes the last 14 months of education.

The shared superintendent said while this last year dealing with the

ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic has been a constant stream of curveballs, he’s proud of how both staff and communities have supported the decisions made in an effort to keep the schools open as much as safely possible.

Been a marathon

Crozier has been the superintendent at MFL MarMac schools for 20 years and at Eastern Allamakee for 10 years.

On March 15, 2020, Crozier watched as Governor Kim Reynolds ordered all schools closed.

“The first thing we did as an administrative team was to dis-cuss some ‘overall goals’ for the long run (although I didn’t think the long run was going to be very long). Our overall goals in both districts were simple, but they helped us keep our eye on the ball. They were: 1) get through it, 2) have school to the degree possible, and 3) keep everything as clean and safe as possible,” said Crozier in conversation with the Driftless Journal.

Crozier said he began attending daily Zoom meetings with the chief administrator at Keystone Area Education Agency. He said roughly 18 superintendents from the District 1 area met at least once a day by Zoom and sometimes as many as three times a day.

“This daily interaction was invaluable, as we shared our problems and worked through many situations as a group,” said Crozier.

Next, Crozier met by Zoom with all staff members from both districts. He said it was important to make sure all staff knew “we were listening and mindful of the needs and that we were going to have staff involvement in our Return to Learn Plan.”

Between the two districts, the schools also began providing several hundred lunches each day.

“We had excellent support from our lunch staff in both districts to make this happen,” said Crozier. “The lunch program system has been a way to provide support and some relief to families during this crisis.”

Working on the plan

Throughout the summer, teachers from both districts met to develop the Return to Learn plan. That plan included focuses on instruction, safety, special needs situations, social-emotional issues and more.

Crozier noted he collaborated with Barb Schwamman, shared superintendent at Riceville and Osage School Districts, and Postville Superintendent Tim Dugger as he crafted the Return to Learn plan for MFL MarMac and Eastern

Despite the pandemic, both districts worked to provide as many “normal” activities as possible to students. Top: Eastern Allamakee students earned All-State speech awards. Above: MFL MarMac students celebrate the 100th day of school. (Submitted photos)

Allamakee. Those were the area schools to choose to have virtual Wednesdays.

To start the academic year, both MFL MarMac and Eastern Allamakee went with a “2-1-2 system.” All students attended in-person classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, everyone did virtual learning, allowing for additional cleaning. Students in pre-kindergarten through third grade used the SeeSaw app on virtual days. Students in grades four through 12 used Canvas for virtual days at MFL MarMac while Eastern Allamakee used Google Classroom.

“Our teachers also adapted to Zooming on Wednesdays and they can now teach remotely if needed to in the future,” he said. “Virtual Wednesdays were not the best situation, and this was especially true for the elementary students. We did the best we could, and we tried to strike the balance between keeping kids in school and keeping them safe.”

At MFL MarMac, the school board hired Cheri Moser to help communicate changes to the Return to Learn plan.

“Our communication was nicely framed and easy to find, yet it was to the point and without a lot of frill. This helped promote transparency, trust, and it kept people better informed, which in turn kept the waters calmer,” said Crozier.

Bumps in the road

The school districts weathered the COVID-19 storm this past winter. Due to an increase in positive cases in the area, both did an extended Thanksgiving break, then returned to the 2-1-2 format. In March, they returned to exclusively in-person learning.

Both districts also utilized the virtual format on snow days.

Crozer said this academic year, the sickness level at both schools was much lower than in previous years.

“We don’t know for sure, and we can’t prove what caused this, but our total sickness this winter was extremely low, which includes the flu and strep,” said Crozier.

Crozier also noted updates the districts made to assist with keeping buildings clean. In addition to having Wednesdays to air out the buildings, they utilized new

“It’s been a journey”

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