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DES MOINES, Iowa – Students are just days away from heading back to the classroom and parents still have questions about their safety amid the pandemic.

That’s why Des Moines Public Schools held a town hall Tuesday to discuss back to school plans, the only one scheduled before students head back to class on Aug. 25.

A few faculty members with the district answered questions submitted by parents. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart noted the district will not have the same tools as it did the year before.

“There are a number of areas where CDC guidance and Iowa law are not aligned,” Dr. Ahart said. “As I learned last year, Iowa law comes with real consequences. In most cases where the two conflict, we will be forced to follow Iowa law.”

DMPS made clear it will not be able to require masks or offer mask-only classrooms, but did talk about efforts they can control such as cleaning, social distancing when possible, and even exploring incentives for mask wearing and getting the vaccine.

“A very important role for school is to create and maintain a culture that supports the science,” DMPS Executive Director of Leadership and Learning Tim Schott said.

The town hall also covered how the district has options for both in-person and virtual instruction. There are still some unknowns about what will happen when so many students get sick.

“At this particular time, we don’t have a threshold about when a classroom or school would be closed,” DMPS Health Services Supervisor Melissa Abbott said. “That is something that I, that Des Moines Public Schools can’t make independently.”

The district says it will continue to work with Polk County and the state during the school year, as COVID-19 conditions and guidance are subject to change.

Dr. Ahart mentioned parents can continue to ask questions online, and the district will post the answers.