Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds threatens consequences for schools that refuse to reopen

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is not budging against schools that defy her mandate to open for in-person instruction at least 50% of the time, according to the Des Moines Register.

At least two school districts in Iowa have decided not to abide by Reynolds' mandate, and Reynolds made it clear Tuesday that schools that aren't open for in-person classes at least half the time won't have that excess online instruction counted toward the state-mandated number of instructional hours and days.

"Schools that choose not to return to school for at least 50% in-person instruction are not defying me, they are defying the law," Reynolds said during a press conference. "If schools move to primarily remote learning without approval, according again to the law, those days do not count toward instructional time."

While Reynolds did not say that schools could lose state funding over this issue, the situation could cause students not to make the proper academic progress, and could also lead to licensure discipline for administrators.

The districts are arguing that they should have local authority to make their own decisions because of the unique public health circumstances. From the Register:

The Urbandale school board voted unanimously Monday to continue online-only learning at Rolling Green Elementary School, after the state denied the district's request to extend online learning at the school.

The Waukee school district also issued a statement Monday saying it would not follow Reynolds' guidance, asserting that state law gives school districts the power to make their own decisions about how to handle potential hazards to their students and staff.

Some other districts, including Des Moines, intend to ask for waivers for the 50% requirement or for permission to push the school year back some, and will then decide how to proceed in the event that those waivers are denied. There is hope that regardless of how much in-person instruction is needed in the fall, things could be better in the spring semester.

"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% number," Superintendent Tom Ahart told the Register.

Iowa has experienced 887 COVID-19 deaths, with the peak of the outbreak coming in late April through mid-May.


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