OSKALOOSA — Iowa schools will remain closed until April 30, as per Gov. Kim Reynolds’ announcement on Thursday, April 2.
Reynolds said during her now-daily address that keeping students out of classrooms is a “very difficult decision” but it remains necessary.
“We anticipate the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa will continue to grow,” she said, “and keeping schools closed for an extended amount of time will help protect the safety of our students, educators and school staff, reduce the burden, flatten the curve on our healthcare system and workforce, and of course, reduce the risk to our most vulnerable Iowans and ultimately, save lives.”
Reynolds is not at this time ordering schools to close for the remainder of the school year.
“That said, it is also important that Iowa schools do their part to provide continuous learning opportunities for their students,” she said. “So many school districts have already taken the initiative to do just this, including rural school districts and private schools.”
School districts know best what will work for their communities, Reynolds said, “which is why these decisions can and should be made locally.”
Dr. Ann Lebo, who was named director of the department of education on March 13, 2020, concurred the decision to close school through April 30 was not lightly made.
“During these unprecedented times, we remain focused on supporting our schools, families and community partners to ensure Iowa learners are safe, healthy, engaged and prepared,” she said. “Superintendents are preparing for next steps. Teachers across the state are sharing ideas and finding creative ways to engage with their students and parents are juggling work and helping to engage their children in learning at home.”
Lebo said the Department of Education is providing further guidance on school closures and continuous learning for students.
Two continuous learning options had been provided, Lebo said: a voluntary option and a required option.
“Under the voluntary option, schools can encourage students to participate but cannot require them to do so,” she said. “Under the required option, students are required to participate, attendance is taken, work is graded and credit granted.”
Under the new guidance, Lebo said, public school districts and accredited nonpublic schools will be required to indicate which method of learning they will choose to participate in.
“We encourage schools to work as quickly as possibly on their plans, which may include the delivery of content through online learning, paper packets of assignments or both,” she said. “While we strongly encourage schools to provide continuous learning opportunities through one of those two options, they are not required to do so.”
The Department of Education will follow up with schools that choose not to offer continuous learning, Lebo said, “to ensure that missed instructional time is made up in a manner that is appropriate in accordance with circumstances at that point in time.”
Additionally, Lebo said, the department will survey schools to “identify and address barriers they face in implementing continuous learning programs.”
“We know that professional learning opportunities, along with uniform, consistent wifi access for students top that list,” she said. “We are working with Gov. Reynolds, Iowa’s AEAs and other partners to coordinate efforts so resources are in place.”