• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

The end

Gov. Reynolds cancels the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year
Tim Kuehl

JOHNSTON– Students will not return to classes for the 2019-2020 school year after Governor Kim Reynolds issued her third and final proclamation for the schools during her daily COVID-19 press conference Friday, April 17, at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston.
“I regret to say Iowa schools will not reopen for this school year,” Reynolds said.
“Believe me, I would like nothing more than to stand before you today and announce that Iowa will be open for school in May. But as we look at what the data is telling us now I can’t tell you with any certainty, based on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) data that they’re providing, that early May will be the right time for students, teachers, and staff to gather again in their classrooms.”
Reynolds initially closed all of the state’s public and private schools on March 15 for a four-week period in order to inhibit the spread of the virus. She extended the outage on April 2 to a May 1 reopening and directed school districts to submit a plan for continuous learning opportunities to the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) by April 10. On Monday, April 13, the IDOE reported 506 school districts and accredited nonpublic schools submitted plans, including all 327 public school districts. Of those, 285, including the Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCA), opted for voluntary educational enrichment opportunities. As implied by its name, voluntary educational enrichment opportunities feature voluntary participation by students, and no grades or credit are given. By offering continuous learning, classroom time lost due to the school closures will not have to be made up as the Iowa Legislature voted to approve SF2408, waiving the requirement for instructional hours and days.
“Districts will be required to continue to provide continuous learning opportunities for their students through the end of the school year,” Reynolds said during the April 17 briefing.
CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl said in an email the district will continue with the voluntary continuous learning plan through Thursday, June 4, the scheduled end of the school year.
“Hopefully we are able to return as scheduled (in August),” he said. “We are working through how to restructure the start of the year to assess where each student is (standardized testing was also waived) and target instruction to meet their needs. Details are still in the works.”
In a letter to families on April 17 the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) said, “As a district, we have been preparing for the possibility of not returning to school this year. At this time, we can share that within the Procedures for Continuous Learning as outlined by the Iowa Department of Education, we are moving from Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities to Required Learning Opportunities at the high school level. Our plan at this time is to make this move beginning Monday, April 27. This applies to students at the high school level or students in high school level courses only. At the kindergarten through eighth-grade level, we are increasing the rigor of our Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities, a process that is underway at this time. We feel that this is the most appropriate action for each grade level to continue to move forward with learning from home. Both plans allow us to count the instructional time lost and students will not be required to make up the days of school that will be missed through the end of the school year.”
Under the required model, attendance is taken and lessons will be graded. The ICCSD is among 36 public school districts offering a combination of voluntary and required educational services according to the IDOE.
In an email, Liberty High Principal Scott Kibby said his first reaction to the news was twofold.
“I’ll miss seeing all our kids. We do this work because of the kids and the relationships we build. It’s especially hard for me with this senior class as they are our first full (all four years) class. I’ve got some wonderful kids that I’ve built connections with,” Kibby said.
Secondly, he added, “At least we finally have closure on what to do with the rest of the year. This notion of waiting every two weeks to see what the next two weeks holds has been emotionally draining and hard to plan. I understand why it’s been this way, but we finally have finality and we can plan based on certainties now, and not assumptions.”
The governor has also waived graduation requirements for the seniors, a move Kibby said was the right thing to do.
“They are being robbed of a wonderful spring of their senior year,” he said. “We should do everything in our power to set them up for their futures in college, the military, or the world of work.”
Kibby also did not totally discount the possibility of a graduation ceremony, at some point, for the Class of 2020.
“The biggest key to the decision right now is when the governor lifts the 10-person congregating rule. If that gets lifted on May 15, we could hold our graduation on our normal dates (rehearsal on Thursday, May 21, and graduation on Sunday, May 24).”
This was to be the first year for Liberty utilizing Carver-Hawkeye Arena for graduation, as City High and Iowa City West High have for many years. However, Kibby said, “We would not do it at Carver, no matter what. We would do it on our campuses. At Liberty, we are open to doing it anytime in the summer, as well.”
Kibby also had some advice for students during this time of distance learning, uncertainty and perhaps even hardship.
“My advice is to prioritize their health and safety first,” he said. “Then prioritize the well-being of their families in terms of their health, but also their family and financial circumstances.”
He noted with unemployment growing some students are helping to provide for their families, that should be a priority as well.
“Then, if they have those two pieces in pretty good shape, please join us for our online education,” he detailed. “We will try to be innovative and engaging because we have to do this differently than if we were in class.” Kibby said the goal is to help students gain the content and the skills needed for the next part of their journey, whether it is college, or the next year of high school.
Director of the IDOE Ann Lebo said pulling the plug on the rest of the school year was not an easy decision, but was necessary to ensure the health and safety of those we serve.
Lebo also announced the cancellation of the spring sports season, which was suspended pending the reopening of the schools, and acknowledged the sense of loss and distress both closing the schools and canceling sports would have.
“Iowa schools are essential to our communities, well beyond the educational services they provide,” Lebo said.
Iowa High School Athletic Union (IHSAU) Executive Director Tom Keating said, “While we are disappointed that student athletes will not have the opportunity to compete this spring, we remain committed to our primary goal of keeping students, coaches, officials and communities safe. This cancellation comes out of an abundance of caution for the well-being of all.” Keating said conducting the spring season (soccer, track and field, golf, and tennis) would involve moving groups of people in and out of various communities for competition and called it a risk that shouldn’t be taken.
Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) Executive Director Jean Berger said, “We understand the important role that athletics and activities play in the lives of our students, schools and communities. But during this time of uncertainty, we must support the health and safety recommendations of our state and national leaders.”
Berger said the decision was especially heartbreaking for the seniors and thanked them for all they have done to represent their schools throughout their careers.
According to the IGHSAU and IHSAA over 45,000 high school students participated in the spring sports last year.
In a Tweet by Liberty’s Athletic Director Mike Morrison, he noted, “Heartbroken for the 350 Liberty kids and all the athletes around the state ready for their spring season. So much energy going into this season and the first opportunity for our kids to compete in their new home facility. Thank you seniors for your leadership. #BoltNation.”
A decision regarding the fate of the summer sports season (softball and baseball) is expected by June 1.