CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa cancels in-person fall youth programming

Even as campus plans to reopen, K-12 options shrink in Iowa City

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City-area parents searching for more fall learning and engagement opportunities for kids lost another option Friday when the University of Iowa canceled all in-person youth programs through the end of the year.

That includes youth-centered academic experiences, research-based activities, sports and wildlife camps, and other programming kids in past years have engaged with after or in conjunction with school, on weekends, or during seasonal breaks.

The UI youth cancellations don’t apply to high school students planning to take “postsecondary enrollment option” courses.

“High school students who are officially enrolled in university courses may continue to be in those courses,” according to UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.

For athletics, the fall cancellation of programs scheduled between Aug. 8 and Dec. 31 affects five sports and 410 total participants — requiring the department to issue $82,805 in refunds, according to Josh Berka, director of sports camps and associate director of event management for UI Athletics.

The Athletics Department had to refund $212,000 for summer programming cancellations announced April 30, Berka said.

The UI fall cancellation extends the summer mandate that any youth programming happen in an online-only format.

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And the announcement comes after the Iowa City Community School District earlier this week voted to delay in-person classes until at least October — although Gov. Kim Reynolds seemed to confuse that plan Friday with a proclamation directing all schools to prepare for face-to-face instruction this fall.

The university, at the same time, is preparing to bring back its 30,000-some students and 27,000-plus employees this fall for a hybrid semester that prioritizes in-person learning. The university is keeping any classes over 50 online but urging instructors to offer as much face-to-face education as possible.

In that many UI employees are parents of kids in the Iowa City school district, the university this week promised to investigate and provide resources and supports for parents who might be facing new child care and home schooling challenges.

In canceling its youth programming for fall, UI officials noted the possibility of providing some of those experiences virtually — directing providers to follow a 2020 Online Youth Programs Manual that outlines a slew of requirements, including they develop protocols to address virtual classroom hacking.

“All online youth programs shall have written protocols for addressing ‘zoombombing’ and the hacking of virtual classroom,” according to the UI guidance. “ITS produced information to guide the development of protocols responding to unwanted intrusions into the virtual classroom.”

A parent and participant waiver required for UI online youth programs acknowledges program staff “are not providing supervision for my child during the online program, and the university does not have control over the information available through the internet or other electronic data sources.

“Sites accessible through the internet or other electronic date sources may contain material that is illegal, defamatory, inaccurate, obscene, profane, or potentially offensive to others,” according to the UI waiver. “Risks may include, but are not limited to: ‘Zoombombing’ or other similar disruptions, cyber bullying, identity theft, hacking, intentional or inadvertent exposure to the types of materials described above.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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