CORONAVIRUS

Iowa schools can start early, but only if days are 'extra'

Governor adds condition for starting classes before Aug. 23

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks Tuesday at her daily COVID-19 news briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Jo
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks Tuesday at her daily COVID-19 news briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. Reynolds on Wednesday issued a proclamation allowing schools to start before Aug. 23, as required by Iowa law, but only if those days are “extra” to the 180 days of required instruction. (Olivia Sun/Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES — Iowa elementary and secondary schools will be permitted to start classes this fall before Aug. 23 but only if those early days are in addition to the typical academic year of 180 days.

Gov. Kim Reynolds included that caveat as part of a new proclamation she signed Wednesday to continue the public health disaster emergency in the state

Part of that proclamation officials — and temporarily — suspended the 2015 state law that says classes at Iowa’s K-12 public and non-public schools may start no sooner than Aug. 23.

The suspension was done at the request of the Iowa Association of School Boards, on behalf of numerous governmental bodies.

However, the governor’s order said the one-time suspension would apply only to school districts that adopt a 2020-21 calendar — as a part of its “return to learn plan” — that shows those days will be in addition to the minimum of 180 days — or 1,080 hours — os school instruction required by Iowa law.

Iowa schools have been closed since mid-March as part of the effort to prevent the community spread of the deadly coronavirus, Iowa high school spring sports also were canceled for the spring, and summer sports will be re-evaluated later.

On Wednesday, Reynolds temporarily suspended the scholarship rule for interscholastic athletics, saying when school and athletic competitions resume, all student athletes will be deemed to be academically eligible.

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Also, the governor temporarily suspended the transfer rule for interscholastic athletics to the extent that they require a certain number of school days of ineligibility, Any day that a school was closed due to her emergency order will be counted toward the days required by the Iowa administrative code.

Reynolds’ order also suspended a number of private instruction provisions requiring face-to-face contact for children receiving private instruction from privately retained licensed practitioners or home school assistance program teachers. She also temporarily suspended annual reporting and assessment requirements.

During a conference call with other governors earlier this week, Reynolds said it was possible Iowa kids would be able to participate in summer activities and summer school — including school remediation programs that might be needed because of missed instructional days — as early as June.

But that decision, she said, would be made only if health data supports that action.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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