Meskwaki Settlement School Updates

From the Superintendent on 8/3/20:

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Good afternoon MSS Families,

We know how challenging this time has been for our communities, our state, and our country. Please know, we are working hard to prepare for the start of the school year and to determine the best actions to support our students and staff. With each day, we learn more and identify something else to be considered. We recognize as we move forward there will be more questions to be answered. Thank you for patiently working with us through these uncertain times.

Last week, members of the MSS leadership team had the opportunity to meet with the Tribal Council to review our options noted in the attached Return to Learning Plan. The following information is a brief summary of our work. As we’ve discussed and shared previously, we have been preparing for three options:

  1. Return with everyone in school
  2. Returning with some in-school learning and some virtual learning opportunities
  3. Everyone participating in virtual learning

A safe and effective reopening of the Meskwaki Settlement School in the fall requires the commitment of our Meskwaki Settlement School family members- staff, students, families, and community- to do our part. Our mission is to prepare students to be responsible, independent life-long learners, preserving the language and culture of the Meskwaki Tribe. By working together in a safe environment, students will grow culturally, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially.

The following principles guided the work of the reopening leadership team:

  • Foster overall health of students and staff while mitigating the risk posed by COVID-19
  • Provide high-quality teaching and learning experiences for students and staff, regardless of delivery mode
  • Make decisions that are driven by data and expert recommendations

Federal, State, and Local Guidance
The district has relied on federal, state, and local guidance in developing its plans, policies, and procedures for a safe reopening this fall. In developing this plan, the Meskwaki Settlement School re-entry teamed reviewed guidance from the Iowa Departments of Education and Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Tama County Department of Public Health, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), Meskwaki Health Clinic, area educational leaders, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We have also reviewed guidance from additional professional organizations, including the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU), and Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).

Throughout the summer, fall, and if necessary-the whole 2020-21 academic year- the district will continue to work closely on its COVID-19 health and safety protocols with the Tama County Department of Public Health and our Tribal Health Department in order to best respond to the specific needs of our school community.

Here is a summary of the work from our Return to Learn plan:

Beginning of the School Year
At this time, the District plans to start staff PD on August 10th and students will start August 17th. Given our current information, we are planning to begin the school year with the Hybrid Model.

  • At this time we will be planning for instruction for students in K-12.
  • Due to the difficulty of providing in-person instruction with supported social distancing guidelines, there will be no Early Childhood and PreK classes through the 1st semester of school. We will provide virtual instructional learning opportunities to our EC-PreK students through the first semester. Decisions regarding 2nd semester will be made as we near the start of the 2nd semester.
  • Students will be split into two groups (taking families into consideration and balancing each grade level) and assigned into cohorts to attend classes on campus either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.
  • Students will participate in required online learning the three days they are not on campus. In some situations, students requiring additional support will report to school on additional days in small groups to provide them direct specific support.
  • Wednesday will be utilized for extra cleaning, professional development for staff, lesson development.

We will adjust our instructional delivery to less or more restrictions based on the information that we have available.

Virtual Learning
We know there are families ready for their students to return to school for direct instruction for educational and social benefits while there are others who do not feel comfortable with their child(ren) returning for direct instruction at this time. While virtual learning is not the recommended return to learning approach, parents may elect this option for their students by completing a Virtual Learning Application. Every student will automatically be scheduled into the hybrid learning model unless the family completes the application in early August. Virtual Learning Application link below.

Health and Safety Guidelines
The following Health and Safety Guidelines are being implemented and will continue to be adjusted as needed:

  • Beginning of the day screening for temps and other symptoms for staff and students
  • Facial PPE (Masks and/or where appropriate-face shields) will be required for all staff and students
  • Plastic barriers in certain areas will be used as additional protective barriers
  • Arrange learning spaces to account for 6ft of social distancing wherever possible
  • Limited movement of students throughout the building
  • Increased cleaning and sanitization procedures
  • Assigned small groups with limited to no interactions with other groups
  • Frequent breaks for hand-washing
  • Additional safety adjustments to routines (meals, expanded learning outside, staggering of class dismissals, etc.)


Families who are able to transport their own students to school and from school will be asked to do so temporarily, but bussing will be provided to families that need the bus. Masks, social distancing, and symptom screening will be required each morning for students riding the bus.

Band, Choir, PE, Athletics & Extra Curricular Activities

Increased space, utilizing outdoor space, and other modifications are continuing to be identified. More updates will be forthcoming in August.
The whole Return to Learn Plan is attached to this email and will be posted on the district website. Although the whole plan has significantly more details, please know we will continue to modify and adjust the plan based on the best available information in order to support the needs of our students and staff.
Thank you,

Willie Barney, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Meskwaki Settlement School

Meskwaki Settlement School Return to Learn Plan.docx (1)

Virtual Learning Application Link