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School officials shy away from comment on specific parts of state guidelines
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School officials shy away from comment on specific parts of state guidelines

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The president of the Iowa State Education Association swiftly condemned the new Reopening Guidance for Schools released Thursday by the Iowa Department of Education.

“We are deeply disappointed with the Iowa Department of Health and the Iowa Department of Education Reopening Guidance for Schools issued June 25, 2020,” ISEA President Mike Beranek said in a statement released Thursday. “The ISEA believes a school district reopening model must ensure the health and safety of students and staff and prioritize long-term strategies on student learning and educational equity … We call on school districts to create your own guidelines mandating face coverings, physical distancing and other safety protocols.”

Local school officials shied away from commenting about specific pieces of guidelines Friday, but made some general comments about COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Eric Knost, superintendent of Lewis Central Community School District, said he thought the state’s guidelines were more realistic than earlier guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I really can’t speak for or to our State Department of Education’s guidance, but I believe they understand that CDC-like guidelines are practically impossible to follow for preK-12 schools,” he said in an email message to the Nonpareil. “The initial bus/transportation restrictions alone that were put out by the CDC and for our summer sports would be impossible during the year for a district like ours and most others throughout the state.”

Regarding transportation on school buses, the CDC’s Considerations for Schools, updated May 19, stated, “Create distance between children on school buses (seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.”

“Superintendents have been asking the Department of Education to provide us whatever guidance they were imposing for the fall so we can plan accordingly,” Knost said. “I believe it really came down to them either announcing they were bringing schools back or ordering us closed.”

Lewis Central and Council Bluffs Community School Districts are both still ironing out the details of their own plans.

“The Council Bluffs Community School District has been diligently working on plans for next school year that will provide a healthy and safe educational environment for our students in school,” Council Bluffs Superintendent Vickie Murillo said in a prepared statement. “Of course, we are also preparing plans to educate students remotely if the spread of the virus causes schools to be closed. We are already implementing for next year many safety measures in our schools that include the use of protective equipment, social distancing and screenings to mitigate the potential spread of the virus.”

Council Bluffs Community Schools staff and families will have an opportunity to weigh in on the district’s plans, Murillo said.

“At this time, we are currently finalizing and preparing the plans for further input from staff and parents,” she said. “I want to assure our families and staff members that we will implement reasonable safety measures that exceed the Iowa Department of Education guidelines.”

Said Knost, “We are working hard with planning for a return that includes as many mitigation efforts as are possible while also being supported by our Department of Public Health and legal counsel.”

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