Iowa Gov. Reynolds orders school closures to be extended through April 30

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa)
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KWQC) - Iowa schools will remain closed through April 30, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday.

“Keeping Iowa’s students out of classrooms is a very difficult decision, but it remains necessary for now,” the governor said during a press conference Thursday.

“We anticipate the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa will continue to grow 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 health care system and workforce, and of course, reduce the risk to our most vulnerable Iowans and ultimately save lives.”

In March, she recommended schools close for four weeks. Schools were slated to open again on April 13.

Reynolds said at this time she is not ordering schools to close for the remainder of the school year.

"As we have with all COVID-19 mitigation decisions, we will continue to monitor the situation, assess the measures that we have in place, and use data to make the right decisions at the right time,” she said."

Reynolds said it is important that Iowa schools do their part to provide continuous learning opportunities for their students.

“The recommendation to close schools through April 30 was not made lightly,” Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, said Thursday. “And we know the challenges that this decision puts on our schools and families. 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.”

Lebo said the department previously issued guidance that provided all Iowa accredited nonpublic schools and public school districts with two options for continuous learning.

The first is the voluntary option where schools can encourage students to participate, but do not require them to do so. The second is the required option where students are required to participate, attendance is taken, work is graded and credit is granted, Lebo said.

Under the department’s new guidance, school districts are now required to indicate which method of continuous learning they will use from April 13 through April 30.

Schools will have until April 10 to submit their decision. Lebo said the department has developed an expedited application process for any school that wants to implement a required continuous learning program.

“We encourage schools to work as quickly as possible on their plans, which may include the delivery of content through online learning, paper packets of assignments, or both,” she said. “Accredited nonpublic schools may decide to provide required educational services without applying to the Department for authority, but we ask that they indicate their decision to do so by the April 10 deadline.”

Lebo said the application will be available within a couple of days and the department is prepared to turn around application within 24 hours.

“While we strongly encourage schools to provide continuous learning opportunities through one of these two options, they're not required to do so,” she said. “Districts and accredited nonpublic schools may choose not to offer continuous learning, in which case the department will follow up to ensure that missed instructional time is made up in a manner that is appropriate in accordance with circumstances at that point in time.”

Lebo said the department also has launched a new educational resources webpage that “provides optional resources for families and educators to use as they support student learning during school closures due to COVID-19.

The
website
includes interactive games, virtual field trips, coding activities and eBooks, Lebo said.

Reynolds on Thursday also said she is updating the state’s disaster proclamation that will extend business closures and suspensions of all non-essential and elective surgical and orthodontic procedures through April 30.

According to Reynold's proclamation, any violation of the order is a simple misdemeanor.