JOHNSTON — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Thursday ordered schools to remain closed through April 30.
The governor also extended her closure order for non-essential businesses through the end of the month, and the Legislature announced it will extend its suspension through at least April 30 as well.
That came as the U.S. Department of Labor reported a record 58,453 unemployment cases were filed in Iowa last week, pushing past 100,000 claims in the last two weeks.
The closures are needed as Iowa sees more cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Reynolds said at a news conference in Johnston.
Those include 66 new cases and two deaths announced Thursday. Bremer County recorded its first case and Allamakee County tallied eight new cases. Black Hawk County recorded one new case, and now has eight. Iowa has reported 614 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.
“At this time I am not ordering schools to close for the remainder of the school year,” she said. “As we have with all COVID-19 decisions, we will continue to monitor the situation, assess the measures we have in place and use data to make the right decision at the right time.”
Reynolds said school districts will be required to let state officials know how they plan to continue to provide educational opportunities to students. Districts may choose a program that uses distributed paper worksheets or online tools giving students credit or they may provide noncredit lessons. Those offering noncredit will be required to make up lost instructional time beyond what has not been waived by the Legislature.
School districts must notify the state of their plans by April 10.
It was a lot to digest for metro area school administrators.
“This is the first that we’ve heard of this,” said Jane Lindaman, Waterloo Community Schools superintendent.
She said the district has been making its own preparations for the remainder of the school year, but the deadline to file plans with the state is a “very quick turnaround.”
The district will focus on the two options that involve providing some type of educational content for students, said Lindaman. Since the information was so new, though, she didn’t know exactly what the plans would be at this point.
“Waterloo Schools will do something, but we’re going to need a little more time because this is not one of the options that was discussed” before Thursday, she said.
Andy Pattee, Cedar Falls Community Schools’ superintendent, was still waiting for details, too.
“The district will continue to provide instruction and learning opportunities as we work to clarify details with the Iowa Department of Education,” he wrote in an email. “Teachers will continue to be in contact with their students and work with them to ensure additional opportunities are available.
“Despite the challenges we face today, we remain hopeful for the future because we know that we are surrounded by a community of caring people — those who continue to make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth and families in Cedar Falls,” he said.
Within the same hour, Nebraska announced its schools are closed through the end of the year. More than a dozen states have either closed for the rest of the year or closed without setting a date to reopen.
Reynolds said districts will receive a two-week notice of any further decisions about school closures.
The two new deaths reported Thursday were both adults between the ages of 61 and 80 in Linn County. Linn County continues to lead the state with 103 cases, followed by Polk County with 87 and Johnson County with 80.
The Black Hawk County case involves an adult between the ages of 41 and 60. as does the Bremer County case. Buchanan County added an adult 18 and 40. Tama County added three more cases, while Winneshiek County recorded one new case, an adult between the ages of 61 and 80.
Courier reporters Amie Rivers and Andrew Wind contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.
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