Governor Reynolds Calls on Des Moines Public Schools to Bring Kids Back to the Classroom

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Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds is asking Des Moines Public School leaders to work with her staff to settle their differences outside the courtroom as the Des Moines school board prepares for a special meeting this evening.

Des Moines schools begin their Fall semester on Tuesday online-only despite not being approved for a waiver to do so by the Iowa Department of Education. The local school board says virtual-only learning is necessary due to risk of COVID-19 spread in schools, especially in the district’s high schools.

The Department of Education reserves the right to rule that the hours of virtual instruction held without a waiver won’t count towards totals required by laws. That means students could be left to make up the hours at the end of the school year. The DOE has not said at this time if any days would have to be made up.

Governor Reynolds on Thursday urged the district not to push things that far. In her weekly news conference, the Governor made a humanitarian plea to the school board. The governor pointed to the district’s high rate of low income students who rely on schools for food and a safe environment.

“I know without hesitation the members of the Des Moines School Board care about these issues as well,” Governor Reynolds said, “That is why I’m asking them to meet with my team … to work out a way for us to get the district into compliance.”

The Des Moines School Board is scheduled to meet at 5:45 pm on Thursday to discuss its ‘Return to Learn’ plan. Governor Reynolds says DMPS is only district in the state not currently in compliance with the law.

While the Governor says Des Moines school leaders haven’t a made a successful case to cancel in-person learning, she simultaneously does believe they’ve made a case to cancel sports. Both the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union have ruled any district that doesn’t hold in-person learning can’t hold in-person extra-curriculars, either.

Governor Reynolds says she agrees with that sentiment: “The virus activity is so significant that they can’t go to school but we are okay with them playing football on a field where they aren’t six feet apart. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling and activity going on there. So I don’t think that you can separate the two.” Reynolds called it a common sense approach to the issue and that she believes most Iowans support the plan.

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