Pella School Board

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Rep. Dustin Hite, and Rep. Jon Thorup meeting with the Pella School Board on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.

PELLA — A few local legislators sat down the Pella School Board to discuss issues taking place both inside and outside of the classroom.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Rep. Dustin Hite, and Rep. Jon Thorup visited the Pella High School Library to talk about the work they’re focusing inside of the Iowa State Capitol.

Hite said he doesn’t know many school districts in Iowa who meet with their local lawmakers, but he said he was thankful to the Board for inviting them to the meeting.

Since the last time they met with the Board, Hite took on the role as the Iowa House Education Chair. Throughout the past year, Hite said he’s been looking into year-round school and how to make it happen in Iowa.

Year-round schooling eliminates a standard start date for classes and allows parents more flexibility on when they want their children to go to school. There are currently two year-round schools in the state — which are both elementary schools — located in Urbandale and Indianola.

Hite said he has been discussing with a principal of an Urbandale elementary school on how the system works.

“I don't know if that would ever be something that would be happening in Pella or even in my district, but I want to get schools the ability to make that decision,” Hite said.

During the meeting, Rozenboom said he’s an advocate for school choice, which allows public education funds to follow students to their school, whether it’s a private school, charter school, or a home school.

“I believe there needs to be a choice of education, and I think Pella is actually a great example because you have a strong private school, a strong public school,” Rozenboom said. “I think iron sharpens iron, I think it's good for both schools.”

As of late, Rozenboom said he’s received several emails from parents who are frustrated with their local school board and how they’re implementing “hot button issues,” such as critical race theory.

“The last two years, there have been plenty of parents that are upset with school boards around the state,” Rozenboom said. “People take a look at [school choice] and didn't used to look at this because they don't like the enforcement of what some of the schools are doing.”

Another education issue Hite is focusing on is public notice in newspapers and moving it towards a digital direction. Whether it’s from the school, city, or county, a public notice often needs to be published in a newspaper.

However, due to several local newspapers shutting down within the past few years, Hite is looking for an alternative solution for school districts.

“I've been in the legislature three years now, and in those three years, we went from every major town having their own newspaper to one published in my district, the Oskaloosa Herald,” Hite said. “I think we need to look at that and figure out something that works better in the 21st century, because unfortunately, I don't see us getting more newspapers, I see us getting less newspapers.”

Board President Joan Corbin brought up the looming bond issue and how the district is looking towards building a new Early Childhood Center. She asked the legislators their thoughts on funding for all-day preschool.

“Because it's a half-day preschool, I think we're in the world of consideration of offering wraparound care for all-day programming, but the parents would pay for the other part of it,” Corbin said.

While Hite said he’s not opposed to all-day preschooling, he believes it’s very difficult for the state to pass any legislation regarding the subject matter.

“It's because we have finite resources, and if we give more to that, it's necessarily taking away from something else or funding that you could spend on broadband, roads, prisons, court system,” Hite said.

The legislators also talked about the ban of mask mandates in Iowa schools, with all three men saying they believe the decision should come down to the parents.

“Local control is one of those things that can kind of mean different things to different people, unfortunately, but at the end of the day, I was okay with parents making that call,” Thorup said.

The next Pella School Board meeting will be on Oct. 26, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Sarah Stortz can be reached at sstortz@oskyherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarah__stortz.

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