Gov. Reynolds’ announced an expectation that schools provide at least half of their learning through in-person instruction when classes resume this fall during a press conference Friday.
“In-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction,” Reynolds said in the proclamation. “The best interests of students and families requires that our schools are prepared to provide a structured, safe, and enriching academic environment.”
The announcement blindsided school administrators who said they hadn’t received prior signals from the state except a recommendation in early summer that they prepare a separate plan for entirely in-person, entirely online, and hybrid learning models for the fall.
The new guidelines leave room for remote learning under certain conditions, including “public health conditions in the building or district,” and “inclement weather for a period not exceeding five consecutive school days,” but do not define said conditions.
While the proclamation leaves room for students and parents to independently opt out of in-person learning, Highland and Lone Tree Superintendent Ken Crawford said school boards were awaiting word from the Department of Education about state funding for such students.
“It’s clear that 100% online is not what she wants,” Crawford said. “We’re hoping for more clarification on what do they want versus what do they expect.”
Mid-Prairie Superintendent Mark Schneider said the district had kept its options open in case of a late-breaking announcement.
“We’ve been working on all three models,” Schneider said. “We still have five weeks to go so we haven’t narrowed it all the way down yet but this takes one option off the table.”
Schneider said Mid-Prairie would announce a Return to Learn plan soon, but was cautious about committing too early given the turmoil in other districts like Iowa City where plans are now being reworked for the second time.
“I think of it like dealing with severe weather,” he said. “If the National Weather Service says we have the blizzard of the decade on Friday, and it’s Monday… we still wait to call school off until we know more.”
At Hillcrest Academy, Principal Dwight Gingerich said the plan was already set for an entirely in-person return to school.
“We’re committed to making it as safe as possible,” Gingerich said. “We think it’s the best way forward for us as a smaller school, but things can change depending on how things move going forward.”
A back-to-school guide released by Hillcrest earlier this week outlined several public health precautions including smaller class sizes, face covering requirements and social distancing measures like one-way stairwells and limited locker access among other policies.