DES MOINES, Iowa — Tuesday morning, a Polk County judge denied the Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) request for a temporary injunction to start classes 100% online as the coronavirus pandemic continues on.
The district started classes online the same day.
“The court's decision today recognizes that we are correctly interpreting Iowa law, and I remain committed to working with Des Moines Public Schools on their return to learn plan so that it meets the educational and health needs of Iowa's children," Gov. Kim Reynolds said in response.
Superintendent Thomas Ahart released the a statement following the decision. It reads in part:
“We are disappointed in today’s ruling denying our request for a temporary injunction to allow DMPS to begin the year online. The School Board proceeded with online learning only after serious consideration of all options, due to the alarming rise of COVID-19 in our community. Local control has long been at the heart of school operations in our state. In these unprecedented times we need more flexibility, not less, and we believe that is what the legislature intended to provide us."
Ahart said the Des Moines School Board will hold a closed session Wednesday evening to discuss their next step with legal counsel.
"Until further notice, classroom instruction will continue online for most DMPS students. While this has not been made clear to the public, the credit earned through virtual learning does count for individual students, and schoolwork completed online is applied towards grades and attendance," Ahart said in the statement.
Had the court granted the injunction, both DMPS and the state would be allowed to temporarily continue operating as is. That means the district could continue with its 100% online learning model, even though they hadn't gotten approval from the state.
In August, DMPS requested a waiver to start their school year online. The waiver was denied by the Iowa Department of Education.
Under Iowa law, a county must have a 15% positivity rate on average for 14 days, plus 10% absenteeism in a school, before a district can apply to temporarily move classes online.
Polk County hasn't met the threshold as of Tuesday.
Shortly after the state denied the waiver, DMPS filed a lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit will continue on.
The state filed a motion to dismiss the case Tuesday, according to filings.
READ: Motion to dismiss the case below