CORONAVIRUS

Iowa City schools will start online only

State gives district permission, given COVID-19 cases in Johnson County

Iowa City Superintendent Matt Degner
Iowa City Superintendent Matt Degner

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Community School District will start the school year 100 percent online, after gaining permission from the Department of Education to do so, given the surge in coronavirus cases in Johnson County.

At this time, the first day of school is set for Sept. 8.

The Iowa City school board is holding a special board meeting Saturday to determine whether to move to an off-site, virtual model or stay with the current hybrid learning model, which combines on-site classes with online learning.

In an email to families Thursday, interim Superintendent Matt Degner said the district felt it was necessary to ask the state if it could begin the year with online only classes, given information provided by Johnson County Public Health and the dramatic increase in COVID-19 positivity rates in the community.

On Thursday, the positivity rate in Johnson County was 47.6 percent. The 14-day positivity rate was 16.8 percent,

“After consultation with (Johnson County Public Health), they anticipate these rates to continue to rise,” Degner said in an email. “This is expected to happen much more quickly in the next few days as single day positivity rates are well above 20 percent.”

This is the second time the district has petitioned the state to begin off-site.

Earlier this month, the district’s request to begin the school year virtually was denied by the Department of Education.

The district is pursuing litigation to challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Department of Education’s interpretation of Senate File 2310, which gives guidance to reopening schools during the pandemic.

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The Iowa State Education teachers union invited the district to join the lawsuit, which is scheduled for a hearing in Johnson County on Sept. 3.

Under the state’s guidance, school districts must offer more than over 50 percent on-site instruction.

Districts can petition the state to move online when a 14-day positivity rate is between 15 and 20 percent and student absences are at 10 percent.

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

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