Education

Schools hit by derecho can apply for remote learning, waiver of instructional time under new proclamation

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds responds to questions during a news conference at the Iowa National Guard Armory in Cedar Rapids
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds responds to questions during a news conference at the Iowa National Guard Armory in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

School districts that suffered damage during the Aug. 10 derecho — including Cedar Rapids, Linn-Mar and Marion — will be allowed to start the school year primarily with online instruction if the Iowa Department of Education approves.

Under a revised public health emergency proclamation issued Friday by Gov. Kim Reynolds, school districts with facilities damaged by hurricane-force winds earlier this month also could apply for a waiver of required instructional time if they still are unable to conduct even remote instruction — because of power or internet outages, for example.

The proclamation is in effect until Sept. 20.

Cedar Rapids Community School District Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said the system will need a “minimal of multiple weeks” of waiver of instructional time because of the damage to school buildings.

Kooiker said the district still is working on how many weeks of forgiveness it will request from the Education Department, but “there’s a good chance we will be starting virtually” when the district does return.

The district is hoping to release a start date for school by the end of next week. Before the storm struck, the first day was scheduled to be Monday.

“We’ve got to make sure we have safety pieces in place and we have the infrastructure because it would be extremely frustrating for families to say we’re starting virtually when there’s still 20,000 people without power,” she said.

Earlier this week, the Linn-Mar Community School District delayed its first day of school by three weeks — with students starting Sept. 14 — because of the damage.

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Marion Independent delayed its first day of school two weeks because of storm damage. The first day of school will be Sept. 8.

In an interview with The Gazette, Marion Independent Superintendent Janelle Brouwer said she is “comfortable” meeting the Sept. 8 deadline for every building but Marion High School. The district is considering short-term online instruction.

Following the proclamation, Xavior Catholic Schools announced its first day of school will be sometime between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8.

The slight delay in the school year gives time for the district to fix minor damage and get power restored to buildings, according to an email to families Friday.

Students at St. Joseph School, All Saints Elementary and Xavier High School will have their first day Aug. 31.

Students at St. Pius X Elementary and Regis Middle School will start Sept. 1. St. Matthew Elementary will start Sept. 3 and 4 for two half days and have its first full day Sept. 8.

And students at Holy Family will start Sept. 8.

So far, 13 school districts and several non-public schools have reported damage to their buildings to the Department of Education.

The governor’s proclamation Friday also suspends fees for the replacement of official records by county recorders or the state registrar of vital statistics for records lost, destroyed or damaged by the derecho.

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The proclamation also extends public health mitigation measures for the coronavirus currently in place for businesses and other establishments for another 30 days.

Bars and restaurants must ensure 6 feet of physical distance between each group dining or drinking, and limit congregating together closer than 6 feet.

Requirements for social distancing, hygiene and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission also remain in place for gyms, casinos, salons, theaters and other establishments.

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

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