Educators and parents worry about state guidance on reopening schools

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 8:20 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - School districts across the state are hurrying to come up with a plan for what the next school year is going to look like based on guidelines from the state health and education departments, but educators say the state guidance falls short of keeping staff and students safe.

“We’re all just anxiously waiting to hear what they’re going to do when we go back to school,” Meagan Prestegard, a parent with two kids in the Cedar Rapids School District, said.

Prestegard, who also has another child getting ready for kindergarten, worries about what this next school year is going to look like: half-days, full-days, or virtual learning.

“The kids have been asking me if they’re going to go back to school and I just don’t know,” Prestegard said. “It’s hard to not know the answers.”

The Iowa State Education Association, the teacher’s union in the state, sharply criticized the new guidance. It doesn’t require masks, social distancing, or health screenings of staff or students.

“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines are, at the most, at the bottom part of what needs to be recommended,” Mike Beranek, president of the ISEA, said. “The guidelines sent out last week here in Iowa are far below even the CDC’s.”

Beranek said local school districts will likely institute stricter policies than the guidance suggests when kids return to their schools in person. While he usually advocates for local control on certain issues, public safety during a pandemic is a statewide issue and this is a time when it could give more coherent guidance.

“We have districts that may be in two or three counties,” Beranek said. “One county health department may have a particular guideline for what happens in their communities, but if that district crosses several county boundaries, that’s one issue.”

Prestagard holds out hope her kids can at least go to school for half-days. She’s anxiously waiting for details on what her the second-biggest district in the state will decide.

“They miss school,” Prestegard said. “They would rather go back.”

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