School districts in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area are following Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recommendation to close for four weeks as the state tries to slow spread of the novel coronavirus.
Eight districts in the area — Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Linn-Mar, Marion Independent, College Community, Clear Creek Amana, Solon and Mount Vernon — have announced closures until April 13.
About 50,000 students are enrolled in those public school districts, which are out this week for spring break.
Xavier and Regina Catholic schools also announced Monday they also are closing.
Widespread cancellations are expected to affect most of Iowa’s 520,000 K-12 students.
Schools will not have to make up the missed days. In a news conference Monday, Reynolds said she would waive instructional time requirements for schools to provide 180 days or 1,080 hours of instruction each school year.
Legislators in both the House and Senate agreed on a bill Monday to waive time requirements and Reynolds said she would sign it.
“This provides some relief through April 12,” Reynolds said. “And then we’re going to reassess.”
The bill will specify that classes canceled from March 16 to April 12 will not have to be made up, said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, and will give Reynolds authority to forgive additional cancellations on a district-by-district basis.
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“This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year,” House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a Senate news release.
Iowa has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow schools to continue serving breakfast and lunch to students, Reynolds said during the news conference. School districts can operate over the next month as they would during the summer, when many districts provide free meals to all children on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cedar Rapids Schools
Superintendent Noreen Bush said the district will follow the governor’s recommendation.
“Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are likely and understandably high at this time as you wonder what next steps shall be for our students, staff, community and for the health and safety of those in your immediate family,” Bush said in an email to families late Sunday. “I assure you that the safety and health of our Cedar Rapids Community School District family and supporting our entire Cedar Rapids community is our greatest priority in these times.”
The district previously said it does not own or have access to enough laptops or tablets to provide all students access to online instruction.
Iowa City schools
The Iowa City Community School District closure until April 13 will affect before- and after-school care, all athletics and extracurriculars and facility events — though before- and after- school care will remain open until Friday.
The Iowa City district is assessing how to provide meals and learning opportunities remotely, district spokeswoman Kristin Pedersen said in an email to families Monday morning.
The Iowa City school board will meet electronically at 5 p.m. today to discuss additional measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The district has capacity to provide all students with laptops or tablets and is exploring online learning opportunities.
All 12 schools in the Linn-Mar district were closed following Reynolds’ announcement Sunday night of community spread of coronavirus.
“We are doing everything we can to respond proactively and effectively to the pandemic while connecting our families with the necessary services,” Superintendent Shannon Bisgard said in a news release. “The Public Health Department recommends families work together during this difficult time to assist with child care during working hours.”
All schools on the district’s south Cedar Rapids campus will be shut down until April 13, a news release said.
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“The logistics, feasibility, and legal authority to take action on all elements of this plan are still uncertain,” the district said in a release. “Therefore, we cannot finalize plans until midweek.”
Clear Creek Amana
Serving parts of Coralville, North Liberty and a rural swath of Johnson County, the district will close its six schools.
Superintendent Tim Kuehl said in a post on the district’s website that he and other officials are developing plans for the next four weeks, and beyond that, “will operate with a week-to-week mind-set.”
In a letter to families, Superintendent Janelle Brouwer said Marion schools will be closed until April 13.
“We understand that this will cause an inconvenience, and in some cases a hardship,” Brower said in the message. “We do not take this lightly. I assure you that the safety and health of our Marion Independent School District family and supporting our entire community is our greatest priority in these times.”
All four schools in the district are closed until April 13.
“The district anticipated an extended closure and is prepared to support learning for all students grades K-12 beyond the classroom walls,” Superintendent Davis Eidahl said in a news release. More information about remote learning for Solon students is expected after March 23.
In a tweet, Superintendent Greg Batenhorst acknowledged the governor’s recommendation and said further information about how his district “will address this issue will be provided in the next few days.”
Xavier Catholic Schools ceased operations Monday and plans to remain closed through April 10. Early childhood programs and child care “will continue to operate for the time being,” administrators said in a message to families.
“We understand that these are very unprecedented and uncertain times. Our Xavier Catholic School community is strong because of our connection to one another,” administrators said. “It is a great source of comfort and strength. We want you to know that we are here for our families during this time.”
The Diocese of Dubuque has canceled Holy Mass and dispensed Catholics of the obligation to attend Mass.
All Catholic schools within the Diocese of Davenport are closed until at least April 13, according to an email to families from the Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. Extracurricular events also are canceled.
All public celebrations of Mass are canceled as well, and Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport have been dispensed of Sunday mass obligations.
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James Q. Lynch of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed.
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