Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) took a hard stance Tuesday against any schools planning to defy the state’s requirement for at least 50 percent in-person learning, warning that unapproved remote learning time will not count toward instructional hours.
“I want to be very clear: Schools that choose not to return to school or at least 50 percent in-person instruction are not defying me, they're defying the law,” Reynolds said Tuesday at a press conference as districts nationwide struggle with plans to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She added that an Iowa school’s move to “primarily remote learning” without state approval will not have those days count toward instructional time.
On Monday, a pair of districts in the state said they do not currently plan to resume in-person instruction, The Des Moines Register reported, defying Reynolds's order.
The Urbandale School Board voted unanimously Monday to continue online-only learning at Rolling Green Elementary School, and the Waukee School Board issued a statement saying it would not follow the governor’s guidance on reopening schools, the Register reported.
Reynolds pointed to a law passed unanimously by the state legislature in June that requires schools submitting plans for the fall to include provisions for in-person schooling as the “presumed method of instruction.”
The Iowa Department of Education has defined “primarily” as referring to a school choosing to put more than 50 percent of instruction online, according to the Register.
Reynolds said the “vast majority” of schools in the state have “creative, innovative and adaptable” plans in place that meet the requirements. She said only a few schools have requested waivers to return by remote learning and the state is “actively working with them.”
She said the state would be meeting with Des Moines and Urbandale districts Tuesday afternoon, and discussions are underway with Ames and Iowa City.
Educators have expressed concern at bringing students back for in-person instruction amid the pandemic.
The superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, Tom Ahart, told the Register the district wants to bring students back to classrooms but only once it is confident the coronavirus is under control.
"While we don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the beginning of June, there is some degree of possibility that come spring we’re at a very different point as it relates to COVID-19 and school could look a lot more like normal. Then we could easily get to the 50 percent number,” Ahart said.
The district on Friday said it would ask the state to push back the start of the school year until after Labor Day and begin classes fully online, according to the Register.