CORONAVIRUS

Iowa City schools to offer free lunch for first week, possibly longer, as part of return plan

School board approves matrix to move between a hybrid to virtual learning model during the pandemic

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 will serve free grab-and-go lunches to all students the first week of school and is hopeful the Iowa Department of Education will approve a waiver that would provide free meals for all students through December.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is continuing waivers it used over the summer to provide free meals to the community, Chase Ramey, Iowa City schools chief operating officer, said during a school board meeting Tuesday.

Over the summer, the school district provided almost 500,000 free meals to the community with the help of USDA.

“That’s a huge win for all of our kids. So no matter what learning platform we’re in this fall, the meals will be free,” Ramey said.

Iowa City schools are starting the first two weeks of school Sept. 8 with online instruction after receiving a waiver from the Department of Education.

When the district moves back into the hybrid learning model, students on-site still will receive a free hot lunch. On days students are learning virtually, they can pick up a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch.

There will be six meal sites: Iowa City West, City High and Liberty high schools and South East, Northwest and North Central junior highs.

The Department of Education is optimistic it will approve the waiver from the USDA, Ramey said.

School board approves matrix

The Iowa City school board approved its own matrix for shifting between in-person to online learning and back during the coronavirus.

The district is joining the Iowa State Education Association teachers union in a lawsuit against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education, challenging the interpretation of Senate File 2310, which gives guidance to reopening schools in the coronavirus pandemic.

If the district wins the lawsuit, which is set for a Thursday hearing in Johnson County, the school board wants to have a matrix ready to make a local decision about returning to school.

The matrix was created in collaboration with the Johnson County Department of Public Health and Johnson County Emergency Management. It considers the county’s 14-day positivity rate and each building’s absentee rate for students and staff.

The matrix approved by the board no longer considers the daily number of cases because it is not a “good accurate number,” Interim Superintendent Matt Degner said.

The decision to remain in the instructional delivery model or to consider moving back to a different model will be reviewed every two weeks at a regularly scheduled board meeting, Degner said.

If the decision is made to change the instructional delivery model from hybrid to off-site, students would move to virtual learning the next school day. Once the district moves to the off-site model, it will remain in that model for a minimum of 14 days.

A decision to move fully on-site will be implemented only at the beginning of a new trimester.

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

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

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