Iowa City schools to delay start of school year to Sept. 8

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 10:25 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa City Community School District Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to delay the start of its school year by two weeks.

The year had been scheduled to start Aug. 24, but now classes won’t resume until Sept. 8.

Interim Superintendent Matt Degner said during a virtual board meeting Tuesday that the extra two weeks will allow the district to get a better sense of community health conditions before school starts and allow teachers more time to prepare for the year.

However, Iowa City schools are still waiting to find out what the start of the school year will look like for them.

The district had been planning to start the first several weeks of the year with a remote learning model, until Gov. Kim Reynolds announced July 17 that districts would need permission from the state for more than half of their learning to be virtual.

Degner said Tuesday was the first day school districts could apply for that permission for up to two weeks, so Iowa City schools still don’t know if their plan will get the state’s approval. ICCSD has requested to start the first two weeks of the year remotely.

Last Thursday, the Iowa Department of Education said school districts should only move to a temporary, remote-learning model if their home counties have an average positivity rate over a two-week period of at least 15% and have at least 10% of students absent.

Degner said Tuesday that Johnson County’s current two-week positivity rate average is around 7%, but he still believes Iowa City schools have a convincing argument for starting the year virtually, especially with University of Iowa students returning to the area soon.

The request also has the support of Johnson County Public Health.

“Not only the positivity rate in our county right now but also like we said, the anticipation of several young adults coming back to our community and knowing that there’s likely increased community spread in that regard,” Degner said.

If the state denies this request, Iowa City Education Association President Brady Shutt encouraged board members Tuesday to still decide to start the year with an all-virtual model if the circumstances call for it.

The governor said earlier in the day that districts that do this could be punished.

“If they fail to comply or follow the law, then the days when they’re not in compliance will not count towards the instructional time, and so it will have to be made up,” Reynolds said. “School administrators may also be subject to licensure discipline as well, and that’s within the law.”

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