Staff Editorial

Reynolds should let schools, teachers and parents decide what's best

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens to a question as she updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a ne
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens to a question as she updates the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

Iowa schools are rebelling against Gov. Kim Reynolds mandate that schools meet in-person.

As the unchecked spread of the virus has taken over our counties and cities, some schools have decided to meet online. In response to these plans, Reynolds issued further guidance mandating 50 percent in-person instruction in core subjects and that schools apply for a waiver for online-only education. Waivers will be given only if counties have coronavirus positivity rates of 15 percent to 20 percent over a two-week period and if at least 10 percent of students are absent.

Recent polls have shown that parents are wary of returning to school while the virus rages, and many would like to delay the start of school, at the very least. Many teachers have also shared reservation about potential exposure in the classroom.

In response to the continued spread of the virus, Urbandale schools decided to continue to meet online, despite being turned down for a waiver by the governor. Iowa City schools have decided not to go back until September 8 and in Waukee, the school board issued a strong statement saying they would not comply with the requirement to request a waiver for online-only education. Citing Iowa code, the school board stated, “We will not request permission from the IDOE to temporarily change our learning model should the need arise.”

Citing Senate File 2310, Reynolds threatened schools, warning if they don’t comply with her order, they will have to make up school days and administrators could be subject to licensure discipline. Reynolds also argued that the state law requires at least 50 percent of instruction to be in person. But that figure does not appear in the bill. In fact, state Sen. Zach Wahls, who voted for the law, stated on Twitter that the law was designed to “expand online learning options. And the amendment after we reconvened was not understood by anybody in our caucus to be a limit of school districts’ abilities to use remote learning.”

While Reynolds touts local control, she’s working hard to wrest local control from schools. And in a pandemic, when it’s not a matter of whether children will get sick from COVID-19 but when, schools are being shoehorned into decisions they’d rather not make.

Reynolds is fighting to hold onto a power no one gave her and is not hers to employ. She needs to step back and let schools, parents and teachers decide what works best for them.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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