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Return to Learn: Find your school district's plan for fall classes

The Iowa Department of Education released guidance last Thursday on what is required of schools. Here's how schools are using that guidance.

IOWA, USA — The Iowa Department of Education has released guidance on how schools should adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic this school year. 

The initial guidance released didn't require school staff and students to wear face coverings while at school or require illness screenings before entering school buildings. 

Following the derecho, many schools are pushing back their start dates and updating plans. 

Local 5 is gathering a list of central Iowa schools that have released how they intend to adapt to the pandemic this fall. 

June 30, 2020 guidance from Iowa Department of Education


Ankeny Schools will start classes on August 27 due to the damages caused by the derecho. The district plans to use a hybrid learning model for their return. 

This model splits students into two different groups. These groups will have alternating schedules for learning in-person and online.

Transportation: The district partners with Durham School Services for transportation needs. Here's a look at recommendations for families from the district on transportation:

  • Families are encouraged to provide transportation to and from school if feasible. 
  • Due to social distancing requirements, Pay-to-Ride will not be initially offered. 
  • Capacities of the transportation service will follow public health guidelines: 
    • Number of students permitted to ride at any time. 
    • Cleaning and disinfecting protocols following student pick up and drop offs. 
  • Scheduling of bus routes will be dependent on ridership and capacities. 
  • Routes will be designed to keep families together. For example, if the hybrid mode is required, a family with an elementary student, a middle school student, and a high school student will have all students attend school on the same day(s). 
  • Routes will be designed to minimize the changing of bus stops or pick up/drop off times if the modality of learning changes.

Masks: The district encourages students and staff to bring their own masks to school. They will have face coverings to hand out. 

At-home screenings: Parents are asked to screen their child's temperature every day before sending them to school. If a student has a temperature over 100.4 degrees, do NOT send them to school. 

Food: Food services will be provided regardless of learning model.

Click/tap here to view Ankeny's complete Return to Learn plan.

RELATED: Ankeny Schools delay first day of classes to August 27


The Ames Community School District will start the year on Sept. 8 with a phased hybrid model. 

This phased-in approach will last four weeks with students being grouped into four different cohorts. After the fourth week, the groups will be combined into two groups with 50% instruction over a two-week period taking place on-site. 

Here's a look at what the schedule for the first four weeks will look like: 

Credit: Ames Community School District
A look at the first month of classes for the Ames Community School District.

It's important to note that each school building has their own Return to Learn plan that caters to their students. Links for each building can be found by visiting the district's website

Transportation: Durham School Services will provide transportation for the district. Drivers will be screened daily, wear face coverings, clean vehicles twice a day and make sanitizer available on upon entry to the bus. 

Students are expected to wear face coverings. Two students will be assigned to a seat. Students that live in the same household will be prioritized to sit with each other. 

Masks: Students and staff are required to wear face coverings while on-site. The district will provide face coverings as needed. 

At-home screenings: Staff and students will be taught proper prevention routines that includes home screening processes. Parents will be given information of symptoms to look for to screen their child daily before sending them to school. 

Food: The district doesn't outline if there will be food provided if school is online, however they do outline safety precautions that their provider will be taking on-site. That can be found on the district's Return to Learn plan embedded below.


The Carlisle Community School District will decide their Return to Learn model on Wednesday, Aug. 19, according to their weekly newsletter

For now, the district has two learning models prepared— one for on-site and the other for online. 

Transportation: The district is requiring all passengers on Carlisle vehicles to wear face coverings. Students will be assigned seats. Families are encouraged to use non-school bus transportation whenever possible. 

Here's what else the district is requiring for transportation:

  • When loading and unloading the bus, passengers must use hand sanitizer station.
  • Max occupancy for busses is 2 students per seat/1 ParaProfessional/1 Bus Driver.
  • Assigned seats for all students
  • Siblings or members of the same household will sit together whenever possible
  • Students are allowed to bring one backpack/bag that must stay with them when riding on the bus
  • No guest riders
  • Sanitize hands when entering and exiting the bus
  • ParaProfessional on the bus to assist with student supervision
  • Building staff teach and review expectations. (Ex.-Hands and feet to self, no food or drink, masks, etc.)
  •  Buses cleaned and sanitized after each route
  • No food or drink on bus
  • During trips, increase circulation of outside air as necessary
  • District transportation staff will clean the interior of bus (or other vehicle) focusing on “high-touch” surfaces such as entrance handrail, seats, steering wheel and door handles
  • Bus will be deep cleaned and disinfected every day after the final trip

Masks: Face coverings are required for students and staff on-site. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering. Documentation must be provided if there's a medical excuse for not wearing a face covering. 

Students and staff are responsible for providing their own face covering, however the district can provide coverings if they are unable to do so. 

Food: Food distribution is outlined on the district's website. It varies by age range.

Des Moines

Des Moines Public Schools' Return to Learn plans faced many bumps in the road as Gov. Kim Reynolds and her administration put forth more and more guidelines as the summer progressed.

For that reason, the district is still figuring out exactly what they're going to do when classes start. They currently have two plans in place, one for 100% virtual learning and the other as a hybrid model.

Plans are set to be finalized on Monday, Aug. 18, according to Phil Roeder, DMPS communications and public affairs director.

Transportation: DMPS says transportation will be available to students, however it may be more difficult to promote social distancing guidelines. Students may be assigned seats on busses. 

DART and DMPS staff are working together to determine what protocols may be necessary to keep students and drivers safe while getting kids to school. 

DMPS is still determining policies for students that receive transportation from outside agencies. 

Masks: Face coverings are required for students and staff at DMPS buildings. If you don't want your child to wear a face covering, the district recommends placing your child on a full-time online version of learning.

At-home screenings: Staff and students are encouraged to self-monitor themselves at home. They must notify the school if they're having any symptoms.

Food: All students will have the opportunity to have meals for the days they are not in school, either at a meal site or their attendance area school. More details are yet to come.


The Johnston Community School District's school year will start on Aug. 31 rather than Aug. 24. This is due to the derecho that created "long-term impacts" on the school district. 

The district will offer two learning models this fall: 100% online or a hybrid learning model. This hybrid plan splits students into two groups that alternate which days they're on-site. 

Here's a look at what the schedule would look like: 

Credit: Johnston Community School District
A look at Johnston's hybrid model schedule for students.

Transportation: The district details their transportation guidelines in this document. They're not requiring drivers or passengers to wear face coverings, however they are "strongly encouraged." 

Masks: The district isn't requiring students to wear face coverings, per their hybrid learning plan. Staff members will wear face coverings, however. 

At-home screenings: Families are encouraged to screen their children's temperature before they leave for school. If they have a fever higher than 100.4 degrees, keep them home. There will be no temperature checks/screenings when students and staff enter the building.

Food: All school lunches would be grab and go style with all food covered, individually wrapped, or placed in single serving containers


Indianola Community School District will begin the school year on August 25 in a hybrid learning model.

Under the district's plan, students will go to school for in-person learning five days a week, and will be released 90 minutes early every day.

Those extra 90 minutes will be dedicated to completing any required independent assignments given by teachers, as well as other types of learning like retake/redo.

However, parents also have the option to go to an online model if they so choose, where students will learn online five days a week.


  • Students should be at their bus pick-up location five minutes before the assigned time.  
    • The "assigned time" is the time the bus is scheduled to leave your stop.
  • Students who ride the bus every day will have assigned seats.
  • Masks or other face coverings are required for students, and bus drivers have to wear a face covering when out of the driver's seat.
  • Find a complete list of transportation guidelines here.


  • Breakfast will be served in the cafeteria each morning, with physical distancing guidelines being utilized differently from building to building.
  • At elementary schools: Lunch will be eaten in classrooms, with each meal being served in individual, disposable containers.
  • At the middle and high schools: Lunch will be served in the cafeteria, with physical distancing guidelines being utilized differently from building to building.
  • Find a complete list of food guidelines here.

For more information, you can find the full Return to Learn plan here


Due to the derecho's destruction, the Marshalltown Community School District has elected to push back the start of the school year until Sept. 8.

Once that day comes, students will Return to Learn in different ways, depending on their age.

  • Grades PK-6: on-site learning at district buildings, with multiple safety measures put in place.
  • Grades 7-12: hybrid learning model through first nine weeks, after which the model will be reevaluated.

More details on the district's Return to Learn plan can be found here.

Marshalltown CSD created a "master plan" for their return to schools this fall. The district broke down their plan into six different teams that focus on the following:

  1. Required Continuous Learning & Iowa Academic Standards
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Health & Safety
  4. Social-Emotional-Behavioral Health
  5. Special Education
  6. Data

More information can be found by visiting the school's website.


The Saydel Community School District will start on Aug. 24., and will be using an on-site learning model unless conditions force them to move to another plan.

There will be four possible models the district could be on at any given time: hybrid, remote classroom learning, required continuous learning or traditional on-site learning.  You can find more information on those models here.

This is how Saydel's response will look in the event of a positive case of COVID-19:

Transportation: Transportation is being handled by Durham School Services, who has their own list of guidelines to follow when riding. They only require masks if there's a mask mandate in place or the school requests it. Specific transportation plans from the district themself is still in the works.

Masks: At minimum, the district is strongly encouraging and expecting students to wear masks on campus.

Other Safety Measures: Parents are asked to screen students at home before sending them to school everyday. 


The Urbandale Community School District will start all schools, including Rolling Green, in a hybrid model on Aug. 25.

As part of the hybrid model, only half of the student body will be in the building on any given day.

More information on the plan can be viewed below:


The Waukee Community School District will start their school year in a hybrid model on Aug. 25.

This particular hybrid model is a parental choice between either fully online or fully in-person; there is no in-between.

Students learning in-person will have a school start date of Aug. 25, with no school on Aug. 28.  Online students will start school on Aug. 31.

Click/tap here for more information on Waukee School District's plans. 

West Des Moines

The West Des Moines Community School District Board of Education approved their Return to Learn plans on July 13. 

This plan allows families to choose between online or on-site learning for the fall semester. Students and staff are required to wear face coverings while in school buildings. 

Families have until the end of July to decide if their kid(s) will attend school online or on-site. 

Click/tap here for more information on West Des Moines' Return to Learn plans.

Don't see your school district listed? Email news@weareiowa.com or text us at 515-457-1026 and we'll work to get you the information.

WATCH: Complete "Return to Learn" coverage from Local 5 on YouTube