Iowa Governor Overrides Schools’ Plans, Orders In-person Learning in the Fall

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday that schools in her state must make sure students spend at least half of their learning time in classrooms, a decision that will override some districts’ plans to rely primarily on remote learning in the fall.

In a proclamation¬†signed Friday afternoon, Reynolds ordered all Iowa schools to focus on “preparing to safely welcome back students and teachers to school in-person” for the new school year, which starts next month.

“Iowa law says that in-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction for the school year,” the Republican governor said at a news conference announcing the proclamation, reported Des Moines Register. “Schools must prioritize in-person learning for core academic subjects including science, math, reading, and social studies. And the Legislature has made it clear that most schools cannot provide more than half of their instruction to any student through remote learning unless I authorize remote learning in a proclamation.”

According to the proclamation, schools may only shift to primarily remote learning under specific circumstances, including when parents decide it’s the best option for their family, when Iowa’s education and health departments shut down entire schools due to public health concerns, or when severe weather forces a school to close.

The governor’s order comes as some school districts offer a hybrid reopening model, with students going to school a few days a week for traditional in-person learning and learning from home the rest of the week. Des Moines Public Schools, the largest school system in Iowa, is planning to allow elementary and middle school students to come to school two days per week, or once per week for high school students. Every student in the district will also have the option to exclusively take online classes.

Reynold’s emphasis on in-person learning echoes recent remarks from the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who continues to push schools to return to the pre-pandemic normalcy.

“Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how,” DeVos said during a call with governors, reported The Associated Press. “School[s] must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.”

“A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all,” she said.

As of Friday, Iowa’s health department reported some 37,000 positive COVID-19 cases, with more than 400,000 Iowans tested. That means every one of eight Iowans have been tested and one of 84 tested positive.