Iowa schools are ordered to close through April 30, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during her COVID-19 press conference Thursday.
“Keeping Iowan students out of classrooms is a very difficult decision, but it remains necessary for now,” she said. In the Iowa Quad-Cities, students have not been to school since March 13, including a week of spring break.
Reynolds specified she is not ordering schools to close for the remainder of this school year and noted it was important schools provide continuous learning opportunities to their students.
The Department of Education has created two options for districts to provide continuous learning: Learning opportunities can be voluntary or required, and districts will need to make a decision and notify the department by April 10.
Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said the department will also implement an expedited application process to gain approval for required distance learning. The process will be available in a few days, and she said applications should be turned around in 24 hours. For districts opting to require classes, teachers will take attendance, grade assignments and offer credit for the coursework.
In Iowa, only three providers were approved prior to the COVID-19 emergency. Davenport applied to be a provider at the beginning of March as an alternative learning option.
Districts requiring work can offer online learning, paper packets of assignments or a combination of the two. They also have the ability to start with the voluntary model and move to required work, or split the models by grade, depending on what they think will work best locally.
Non-public schools aren’t required to apply for that authority, but are asked to let the Department of Education know what decisions they’re making.
Districts may also opt to not provide either form of continuous learning, but would have to make up lost learning time beyond the four weeks Reynolds previously waived from the minimum 1,080 hours or 180 days of instruction mandated by the state.
Reynolds said districts will receive a two-week notice of any further decisions about school closures.
The Department of Education is surveying schools to identify and address barriers, including professional learning opportunities and access to wi-fi, and will be meeting with school leaders at 4 p.m. Thursday.
“We know there will be challenges throughout this process, along with much uncertainty,” Lebo said.
Wondering what activities to plan to keep your kids busy these next few weeks? These online resources are a start. What would you add to this list?