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Cedar Rapids School Board blasts Gov. Reynolds order on schools

Students board buses outside Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on July 13, 2020.
Students board buses outside Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on July 13, 2020.(Mary Green/KCRG)
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 4:59 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids School Board says Governor Kim Reynolds order that all schools in Iowa must return to at least 50% in-person classes this fall runs contrary to her other policies and handcuffs local school leaders.

In an OpEd written for The Gazette, the Board said Governor Reynolds’ proclamation on July 17 came as a surprise following weeks or working on Return to Learn plans at the directive of the state.

Among the issues the Board raised with the proclamation is the stripping of local control over schools to a state-run mandate and process. The board noted that Gov. Reynolds opted for a nuanced approach in shutting down and reopening the state at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, targeting specific areas for restrictions based on local conditions. The order for schools, however, gives a state mandate and a one-size-fits-all approach to restarting school.

“While flexibility in regional responses was touted as a benefit, the option for a localized response has been taken away from local school districts and, instead, a statewide mandate has been declared,” the Board wrote. “This seems inconsistent with the governor’s past inclination for a nuanced response to the pandemic.”

The Board also highlighted the fact that local control, a fixture for Iowa’s education system, has been lost as the Governor’s order requires any move to online learning requires approval, calling the Iowa Department of Education a “gatekeeper”.

“Decision making is best left to the local school districts, their administration and their board,” the Board states. “Districts, in conjunction with local public health departments, are best suited to make local decisions regarding which of the three Return to Learn plans best fit their community.”

The column also notes that districts are now required make considerable expenditures on PPE and mitigation efforts to get kids back in the classroom but does nothing to help districts pay for it all, arguing it will impact the educational system “for years to come”.

The Cedar Rapids School Board is set to discuss its Return to Learn plan at a meeting on Tuesday. In the OpEd, it notes that it has confidence in its local plan, despite the Governor’s order.

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