CORONAVIRUS

Iowa City school board preparing own matrix to move from on-site to remote learning during the coronavirus

The Iowa City Community School District Headquarters in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)
The Iowa City Community School District Headquarters in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Community School District school board is considering its own matrix for shifting between in-person to online learning and back during the coronavirus.

The district is joining the Iowa State Education Association teachers union in a lawsuit against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education, challenging the interpretation of Senate File 2310, which gives guidance to reopening schools in the coronavirus pandemic.

If the district wins the lawsuit, which is set for a Sept. 3 hearing in Johnson County, the school board wants to have a matrix ready to make a local decision about returning to school.

“This is going to be a roller coaster all year long no matter what,” school board member JP Claussen said during a meeting Tuesday night. “I want to have as much transparency and control over how we’re going to make the decision (to go virtually). It’s going to be hard to maintain any continuity when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

The proposed matrix, created in collaboration with the Johnson County Department of Public Health and Johnson County Emergency Management, considers the county’s 14-day positivity rate, the number of new cases per day and each building’s absentee rate for students and staff.

The district would move to 100 percent off-site learning if the county’s positivity rate is higher than 10 percent and the daily case count is more than 100.

The district would continue a hybrid model of learning of the county’s positivity rate is between 5 and 9 percent, the daily case count is between 10 and 100 and the student and staff absentee rate is 9 percent or less. If the absentee rate increase to 10 percent or greater under the same county positivity rate, the district would move to all off-site learning.

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The district would move to 100 percent in-person learning when the county positivity rate is less than 5 percent, daily case count is less than 10 and student and staff absences are less than 5 percent.

While the school board agreed the matrix was a “great first step,” members tabled voting on it until they can include criteria for how to return from 100 percent off-site to the hybrid model.

School board President Shawn Eyestone said with the county’s 14-day average climbing “really fast,” the district may be eligible to apply to move to remote learning under the existing Education Department and governor’s rules.

In a July proclamation, Reynolds said students must attend school in-person for 50 percent of the time. Schools that defy the proclamation could suffer consequences including superintendents losing their licenses and students not receiving credit.

Before districts can request to hold classes virtually, under the order, their counties must have at least a 15 percent positivity rate of COVID-19 cases during a 14-day period, and 10 percent of students must be absent.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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