Governor directs schools to open for in-class learning this fall; parents can opt for remote

Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation today that outlines some of the expectations for schools returning to class this fall while continuing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“First, it directs all state agencies, school districts, and local governments to focus on preparing to safely welcome back students and teachers to school in person this fall. Second, it provides clarity for when a school may move primarily to remote learning so there is no confusion,” Reynolds says.

The governor says the proclamation permits remote learning when parents select remote learning as the best option for their family. She says it also provides an option if an outbreak requires schools to make a change. “The Department of Education in consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health approves a temporary move to online learning in response to public health conditions,” Reynolds says.

The proclamation says schools can also get approval to move individual students or a classroom to temporary online learning if approved by public health.

The Iowa City School district has already announced it would do all online classes in the fall. The governor was asked if that meets the guidelines. “No, they would have to go through a waiver. Right now the expectation is, especially with the core subjects, that over 50 percent of those subjects be offered in the classroom,” she says.

The governor says the proclamation also provides regulatory relief for the education workforce, including removing limitations on how often and long substitutes teachers can teach and expanding the pool of Iowans who are eligible to serve as substitute teachers.

Governor Reynolds says the Department of Education and Public Health are continuing to work on additional guidance to school districts. “We are kind of targeting, I believe the first week of August to have that information put together. So, we continue to look at the data, we continue to look at the trends. we continue to reach out to expertise and different studies,” Reynolds says.

The governor made the announcement in Van Meter and was joined by Van Meter schools superintendent Deron Durflinger. The superintendent says his school is prepared to come back to class with in-person classes — but also will have other options available.
“I guess something I want to make sure I reiterate is that every school and every situation is different — and we need to be respectful of that as we move forward,” Durflinger says. He says he is approaching the situation based on something his dad told him.”He’d always just say to me ‘all you can do is the best you can do’, and as leaders, as educators that’s what we are trying to do,” Durflinger says. “So show grace to educators and leaders in your school system and your district. Because all we can do is the best we can do,” Durflinger says.

The head of the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, Mike Beranek issue this response to Governor Reynolds newest plan:

“On the same day Iowa reports one of the highest one-day totals since the pandemic began, we are outraged that Governor Reynold’s response to this spiraling community spread of COVID-19 is to make it harder for school districts to move quickly to protect the health and safety of students, school employees and communities at large.
Today’s proclamation does nothing to increase protections in our schools including how they will pay for extra PPE, disinfectants and cleaning, access to testing, contact tracing, and a host of other data driven mitigation efforts making them safer for students, teachers and school employees to go back to in-person instruction.
This proclamation is short-sighted at best. Governor Reynolds continues to focus on the short-term when science tells us COVID-19 is long-term. Her proclamation means schools are forced to expose students and school employees unnecessarily only to strip them of their local control and force them to appeal to the Department of Education in consultation with the Department of Public Health to seek permission to shut down again in an attempt to prevent further community spread.
We continue to stand behind our students, our teachers and our school employees.
We stand behind science and real data.
We stand behind those school districts that are making good decisions about the health and safety of the people in their care.
Instead of making it even harder to keep our schools safe, the Governor needs to empower school districts, staff and parents to decide what is best for their kids and communities.

Here is the governor’s proclamation:

Schools Public Health Proclamation 2020.07.17 PDF

— Radio Iowa