Iowa schools to remain closed through end of school year

Iowa schools to remain closed through end of school year

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DES MOINES -- Iowa schools will not reopen this school year, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday.

Most Iowa schools have not held in-person classes since mid-March, when Reynolds first recommended school closures. She ordered schools closed April 2.

“Believe me, I would like nothing more than to stand before you today and announce that Iowa will be open for school in May,” Reynolds said, explaining state data does not support safely reopening school buildings. “ ... I regret to say Iowa schools will not reopen for this school year.”

Iowa high school spring sports are canceled as well. Summer sports will be reevaluated at a later date.

Reynolds extended the closures while announcing 191 new cases of coronavirus during a Friday news conference. She said 64 people have died in Iowa, and there are 2,332 cases total in 82 counties.

A peak of the COVID-19 cases is expected at the end of the month.

With buildings closed for the rest of the academic year, school districts will still be required to provide continuous learning opportunities if they do not want to be forced to make up lost time face-to-face later.

“Under normal circumstances, the timeline for developing continuous learning plans would take months, years even,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said during the news conference. “Our schools developed and implemented soluntions in only a matter of weeks.”

Every public school district in the state submitted a plan for continuous learning by an April 10 deadline.

Districts will need to submit another “return to learn” plan by July 1. Those can include summer school and other enrichment opportunities “designed to address disruptions in learning as a result of COVID-19,” Lebo said.

“As we find our way forward, robust, engaging options for learning outside of brick and mortar will become an integral part of our educational framework,” she said. “Complementing face-to-face learning, and preparing students for the increasingly digital world they live in.”

In their continuous learning plans for this school year, most districts, 285 of 327, will offer “voluntary educational enrichment opportunities” — optional, ungraded work that won’t count for class credit. Voluntary opportunities include online activities and paper work sheet packets.

Only six districts will implement “required educational services” for all grade levels. Those services should nearly match the rigor of normal classes, and student attendance will be taken and work can be graded.

The state also allowed 36 districts to provide a combination of required and voluntary learning. Many of those districts plan to offer required services for high-schoolers — including Linn-Mar Community, Marion Independent, College Community and Solon Community school districts — while they continue to provide younger students with voluntary learning opportunities.

Among the state’s accredited private schools, 179 schools submitted plans — 80 for required, 73 for voluntary and 26 for a combination of both.

The announcement came a day after President Donald Trump gave governors guidelines for reopening their states. Reynolds said she was pleased with the content of the Thursday afternoon call.

Trump’s guidance stipulates states, before relaxing social distancing measures, should see the number of reported “covid-like” symptoms and cases trending down, and hospitals should have capacity to treat all patients without crisis care and be testing its health care workers.

Governors have authority to decide whether to follow the guidance, which includes three phases.

In Trump’s Phase One, schools that already are closed should remain closed. In Phase Two, for states “with no evidence of a rebound,” schools can reopen.

Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa

Latest local coverage of the coronavirus  COVID-19 pandemic.

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