JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds warned school districts Tuesday that defy her directive of providing at least 50 percent of core instruction in-person when classes resume later this summer that they would not meet state requirements for instructional time and would have to make up the time later.
Speaking to reporters, the governor said most of Iowa’s school districts are planning to resume classes in compliance with the state directive.
The five or so that are looking to provide at least initial instruction via online only, or with a hybrid that falls short of the in-person threshold, will be in violation of state law if they defy last week’s proclamation.
“The law is the law and we expect our schools to operate within the law,” said Reynolds, who indicated her administration is trying to balance safety with the needs of students but is being thwarted by news media “scare tactics” that are escalating the anxiety of students, parents and teachers.
Districts that don’t live up to the in-person requirement are “defying the law” established by the Legislature in Senate File 2310 that she signed earlier this year.
“I want to be very clear — schools that choose not to return to school for at least 50 percent in person instruction are not defying me, they’re defying the law,” Reynolds said. “If schools move to primarily remote learning without approval according to the law, those days do not count toward instructional time.”
She said school district plans from across Iowa to meet the in-person leaning requirement “are creative, innovative and adaptable and value the health and well-being of the whole student.”
“There are only a few schools requesting waivers to return by remote learning and we are actively working with them,” Reynolds said.
The governor said her emergency health proclamation permits remote learning if parents select it as the best option for their family. She says it also provides an option if an outbreak requires schools to make a change.
Under state rules she announced, school districts may request a temporary waiver to send students home for 14 days and move all instruction online if 10 percent of students are absent and a 14-day average shows at least 15 percent of county residents screened for the coronavirus test positive.
School districts given permission to conduct all classes online due to high COVID-19 case counts would have to again get state officials’ permission for subsequent weeks.
Reynolds said the coronavirus outbreak will be a concern until a vaccine is available to combat it, and until then “come hell or high water we’re going to get through this.”
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