Des Moines School Board Split on Next Steps in Return to Learn Lawsuit


DES MOINES, Iowa  —  The Des Moines School District has suffered a series of losses in its return to learn planning. First the Department of Education rejected a waiver request for online learning. A Polk County judge then rejected an injunction calling for the same thing and warned Des Moines its lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.

During a school board meeting Thursday, members were split on what to do next.

“I think we should continue in our path of pursuing our legal options, I think we should push for an appeal on that injunction,” DMPS Board Member Kalyn Cody said.

“The way that I would suggest we move forward to my colleagues is this… And the first point I would say is we stay virtual, because there is really nothing we can do in the intermediate but to stay virtual,” DMPS Board Member Rob X. Barron said.

“I don’t think we can try and call her bluff, or hope that the governor is bluffing, and hope that she doesn’t hold us accountable for our days of non-compliance,” DMPS Board Member Kimberly Mortorano said.

Getting into compliance, with students spending 50-percent of their time in a classroom, presents another challenge for the district. School leaders aren’t sure they will even have the staff to get students to class.

“We continue to lose drivers, the demographic of our driver population largely falls into a higher risk category as it relates to COVID-19 and they are legitimately  scared for what driving a bus in the middle of a pandemic really means to their personal risk,” DMPS Superintendent Thomas Ahart said.

The school board took action and plan to continue with virtual learning. Board members say it would take at least 2-weeks to transition students back to the classroom in grades k-thorugh-8. High school students likely wouldn’t be able to transition until the end of the first quarter.

Members plan to continue the discussion at next Tuesday’s board meeting.


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