CORONAVIRUS

Some federal requirements waived for schools as Iowa deals with coronavirus-related closures

School supplies are scanned at Super Target in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
School supplies are scanned at Super Target in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The U.S. Department of Education this week gave Iowa school districts more spending flexibility as they try to educate students through school closures and the coronavirus pandemic.

A waiver for the Iowa Department of Education eliminated some restrictions on federal dollars, according to a department news release, allowing school districts to direct those funds toward technology infrastructure and training for teachers who are transitioning to remote teaching.

The new flexibility was authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. At least 28 states have received a waiver, according to Education Week.

Iowa schools are choosing this week if and how they will continue to educate their students during the school closures Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered until at least April 30. She asked districts to report their plans for remote learning by Friday.

Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education gave districts three options during the extended closure.

They can provide “voluntary educational enrichment opportunities,” which cannot be graded or awarded credit, or “required educational services,” which would be graded and need to be accessible to all students.

Districts providing either of those services to students would not need to make up missed school days between April 13 and 30.

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Districts also can choose not to provide remote learning and make up the time in-person later in the school year.

“We are committed to supporting our schools and educators as they implement creative educational solutions during these challenging times,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said in the news release. “We know that new professional learning opportunities, additional technology and uniform, consistent Wi-Fi access for students are needed as schools develop and implement continuous learning plans.”

Iowa applied for and received the waiver Monday, according to a state notice for public comment.

The state asked to waive “all items available to us,” department spokeswoman Staci Hupp said, and the waiver will extend the time frame schools have to meet requirements of several federal education programs.

Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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