CORONAVIRUS

Iowa City schools seek state waiver to hold online-only classes when school starts

District developing other plans to comply with governor's order if waiver rejected

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, which announced only a week ago students wouldn’t return to face-to-face learning until Oct. 6 at the earliest, now is reworking its plan after Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered Friday that districts offer some in-person classes unless they get permission.

Although the district has submitted a waiver request to the state asking to provide only online instruction at the beginning of the academic year, the school board also presented six continuum of learning models Tuesday evening during a special session.

“We affirm our plans for online learning and commitment to them and feel this is our best approach,” said interim Superintendent Matt Degner. But “to be in compliance with the governor’s proclamation, we have some additional work to do.”

The learning models range from 100 percent off-site learning for prekindergarten to 12th-graders to daily on-site learning with health and safety measures enacted to the extent possible.

A majority off-site learning model offers continuous online learning with only up to 25 percent of students returning to classrooms on any given day.

A hybrid learning model proposes students learn on site for two days a week. Half of students would attend class in-person on “A” days and the other half would attend on “B” days. Remote learning would take place when students are not on campus.

A second hybrid learning model proposes prekindergarten through fourth-graders attend in-person classes daily except Wednesdays. Fifth through 12th-graders attend in-person classes two days a week with 50 percent of students on “A” days and 50 percent of students on “B” days. Remote learning takes place when students are not on campus.

The last model suggests half of students prekindergarten through 12th grade on “A” days and half on “B” days with a rotating schedule of A/A/A/B/B and A/A/B/B/B every other week.

For all learning models, parents would have the choice of enrolling students in a virtual learning program.

Shawn Eyestone, the school board president, said nothing about the coronavirus pandemic has improved in a way that makes the district feel more comfortable reopening schools.

School board member Janet Godwin said Iowa City is in a “unique position” as thousands of University of Iowa students return to campus.

“They’ve been all over the world. I think this makes the community stand out differently from the rest of the state. We are unique given this large influx of people coming back to our community,” Godwin said.

School board member Lisa Williams said if a family needs predictability and consistency, the most predictable model of learning the district can offer is virtual.

“The more families that opt into the online system, the more resources we will be able to devote to that program. If we get 20 percent of parents opting in, we’re looking at putting 20 percent of our teaching staff online. If we get 80 percent, we’re going to put 80 percent of our teaching staff online,” Williams said.

Parents and students can begin registering for the 2020-2021 school year beginning Monday on the Power School online portal. Families will be asked if they intend to have students attend class in-person or virtually or select an alternative plan as a preference.

No decisions about how athletics or extracurricular activities have been made yet.

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

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