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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa State Education Association rejects Gov. Kim Reynolds' definition of a safe return to schools, and released its own guidance for a safe return to in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
Following Reynolds' return to learn news conference Thursday, the ISEA said schools should not return to in-person learning unless there is positive coronavirus testing at 5 percent or lower.
'If in fact a 20 percent positivity rate is the point at which our schools can ask for permission to close school buildings for 14 days, that means one in five Iowans will need to test positive and perhaps experience severe to drastic consequences before we can take the steps necessary to protect the health and safety of our students, educators and school communities,” the ISEA said in a statement.
Reynolds cited U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on CBS News' 'Face the Nation” that schools in communities with a less than 10 percent positivity rate of COVID-19 should reopen schools.
If a school reaches 10 percent absence for students in in-person learning and the average county positivity rate for the coronavirus over a 14 day period is between 15 to 20 percent, a school district can request to close an entire school building or district for up to 14 days.
Only the Department of Education and Public Health can provide temporary authorization to move to 100 percent online or remote learning.
The ISEA gave three key requirements for a safe return to in-person learning.
The first is for COVID-19 to be under control in the community. Public health experts agree that reopening schools must want until transmission rates of the coronavirus are low and declining for two weeks, according to the ISEA statement.
The second requirement is for protections to be in place to keep the virus under control.
The ISEA asks that high-risk students, staff and families are protected with accommodations like remote learning and instruction.
Face coverings need to be required for students and staff, plexiglass protections installed where necessary, and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems inspected and modified to increase airflow, the ISEA said.
Triggers for school or districtwide campus closure need to be clearly communicated to families and staff. Protocols need to include notifying anyone exposed to COVID-19.
Return to learn plans need to include continuity of instruction when teachers must quarantine or in-person instruction must be closed, the ISEA requirements state.
The third requirement is for continuous learning plans to be in place for all students.
Continuous learning plans need to address racial and social equity and include training for educators, families, and students for virtual instruction.
Educators should be involved in the planning process for virtual teaching and learning, including adjusting the curriculum and methods of instruction, the ISEA said.
The plan for continuous learning should address device access for every student, high-speed internet access for every student and educator, and accommodate gaps in services.
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