Des Moines Public Schools Wants to Delay Start Date and Begin Classes Online

Return To Learn

DES MOINES, Iowa — A day after Gov. Kim Reynolds announced new guidelines for Iowa schools, the state’s largest school district is planning to ask for permission to push back its start date.

Des Moines Public Schools superintendent Tom Ahart floated the idea to hundreds of parents and teachers on a virtual forum Friday afternoon. He also plans to ask the Department of Education to allow its district to start classes online, and then slowly move students back into the classroom as conditions allow.

“That’s asking for a lot of leniency from the state, but we put our plan together not knowing what the conditions would be and trying our best to create conditions that are safe as possible,” Ahart said.

DMPS will ask the state to approve the following for the 2020-21 school year:

1. Delay the start of the school year to shortly after Labor Day. Professional Development days currently scheduled throughout the year would be held prior to the start of classes so that the 2020-21 school year ends as currently scheduled.

2. The 2020-21 school year would begin fully virtual across all grade levels.

3. As soon as it is safe to do so, DMPS would transition to the hybrid learning model for elementary and middle school students who registered for that plan.

4. High school classes would most likely be held entirely online for the Fall semester, with the exception of some in-person classes at Central Campus.

Points outlined in a return-to-learn email update from Des Moines Public Schools to its community.

The announcement comes as many other educators are pushing back on the governor’s new guidelines for when school districts should switch to online early.

Under the state’s rules, schools must have a positive coronavirus test rate of at least 15 percent in the county where they are located and at least 10 percent absenteeism among students before they can receive a state waiver to transition to fully online learning. Iowa schools are expected to hold at least 50 percent of classes in person.

“We want to go back, let me be clear,” Ahart said. “But I don’t think it’s more important than the safety of our staff and students.”

Des Moines Public Schools’ original return-to learn-plan, which was presented before the state announced the 50 percent in-person mandate, does not meet the state’s requirement.

“It was a plan that has been months in the making and untold hours — blood, sweat and tears going into this and now we are sitting with a plan that is not compliant,” Ahart said.

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