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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. 

Schools are required to develop a plan for on-site learning, online learning and a hybrid of the two by July 1. However, finalized plans may not be released until later this summer. 

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


Transportation: The district is partnering with Durham School Services for their transportation planning. Specifics on transportation, such as changing bus routes and limiting capacity, haven't been disclosed.

Masks: Ankeny Schools said they will prepare for the use of face masks for students and faculty when social distancing isn't possible. Schools will plan for extra masks for students to use if needed, according to Chief Executive Officer Jen Lindaman with the Ankeny Community School District.

At-home screenings: During the summer, the district utilized an app that would require parents to log-in and submit their child’s current health status before heading to their activity. The district is not sure if that will also be used during the school year. 

Food: Food service will be available to students regardless of school delivery method. 

Hybrid Learning Model: School will begin Monday, August 24th. For the first six weeks, students will alternate between in-person and online learning. In four weeks the school board will come together to decide what will happen after that. Below is a model of hybrid learning may look like.

Credit: Ankeny Community School District
This image depicts Ankeny Community School District's Return to Learn Hybrid Learning Model. July 1, 2020.

Click/tap here for more information on Ankeny's Return to Learn plans.


Transportation: Durham is doing daily screening of drivers, Drivers wearing face masks,cleaning/disinfecting buses twice a day, other measures will be discussed with district

Masks: Students and staff required to wear them to the maximum extent possible.Staff will be provided with masks or shields. District is working with community groups who will make cloth masks for students.

At-home screening: Parents will be encouraged to screen children each day. 

Food: The district will investigate if a possible grab-and-go meal option is available for students if a hybrid learning option is implemented.

Other safety measures: Discontinued use of traditional water fountains, Increase usage of signage promoting health and safety measures Social distancing used in classrooms and common areas

Hybrid 1: This delivery model will be done by alternating students between on-site and remote learning. Using appropriate mitigation steps while on site, most students will attend school 2 days per week and engage in remote learning each week on other days.

Hybrid 2: This delivery model will closely mirror the on-site model for most students. However, some families may choose to have children remain in a required continuous learning model for personal safety reasons.

Click/tap here for more information on Ames' Return to Learn plans.


The Carlisle Community School District released a video detailing all of their plans for this fall. 

The following will be implemented under their hybrid plan:

  • Pre-K through fifth grade will attend school for three hours a day (a.m. or p.m.)
  • Grades six through 12 will have 50% student capacity with a rotating schedule
  • Face coverings will be required for students, staff and visitors
  • Transportation will be prioritized for state-required routes
  • Food will be dispersed in a grab-and-go fashion, times and locations will be modified to ensure social distancing
  • district will establish cleaning/sanitizing protocols based on CDC and IDPH guidelines
  • Extra-curricular activities will be based on guidelines from the IHSAA and IGHSAU

Click/tap here for more information on Carlisle's Return to Learn plan. Parents will be able to provide feedback by taking a survey listed on that link.

Des Moines

Des Moines Public Schools' plans aren't perfect, according to Superintendent Thomas Ahart.

"I don't think it's possible to have a perfect plan where the two goals are mutually exclusive. We can't 100% protect the health of our staff and students, and at the same time, do our best job of educating them," Ahart said Wednesday afternoon. 

That being said, DMPS developed two options for the 2020-21 school year. The first option is to be 100% virtual and would run Aug. 26-Oct. 28.

The other option is a hybrid model. This will combine online instruction with shortened in-person days in order to limit the amount of people in a building. 

There is one hybrid model for grades K-8 and another for high school.

Credit: WOI
K-8 hybrid model (Des Moines Public Schools)
Credit: WOI
High school hybrid model (Des Moines Public Schools)

The district is requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear face masks while at school. 

Click/tap here for more information from DMPS. 

RELATED: Des Moines Public Schools on fall return: 'We intend to require face masks'


The Johnston Community School District's school year will start on Aug. 24 no matter what Return to Learn plan the decide on. 

Masks are required for staff and highly encouraged for students. 

Their plans include scenarios for:

  • Socially-distant in person learning
  • Required online learning
  • A  hybrid of online and in person learning

Click/tap here for more information from the Johnston School District. 


Indianola Community School District Superintendent Art Sathoff gave another video update on the district's plan to return this fall. Sathoff said the district plans to have final recommendations for the school board to look over by July 20.

Sathoff said the district developed a "District Leadership Team" to tackle these plans. As of Monday, the team will be recommending a hybrid learning model for this fall.

Sathoff said there are many "moving parts" to these plans. He urged families and staff to remain flexible as the plans evolve.

This option will allow students and staff in the building five days a week and provide "quality online instruction" for students who are unable to return to school. Students will attend school daily, however the day will wrap up 90 minutes earlier than usual.

Sathoff recognized that there will be challenges to this plan, citing scheduling logistics and reduced face-to-face teaching at first. 

He also said that parents will be expected to notify principals about which delivery model their child will be using this fall. Students will need to "stick with the model" for a given period of time, Sathoff said. 

As for face coverings, Sathoff said that students between grades six through 12 will be required to wear face coverings as well as staff members. He said the district would provide two face coverings for those required to wear them.

Preschoolers through fifth graders won't be required to wear a face covering, however they are allowed to. Face shields are also allowed.

"All bus riders may be required to wear face coverings," Sathoff said.

He included that face coverings will allow buses to have normal capacity numbers.

Finally, Sathoff touched on health screenings for kids as they head to school. The district is requesting that parents screen their children before they head to school by checking their temperature. Parents should also monitor their kids for any coronavirus symptoms. 

The school district will not be doing screenings at the door, however the district will have the capacity to check temperatures in classrooms early in the school day.


The Marshalltown Community School District 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.


Transportation: Right now, summer athletics must sit in every other seat. Considering grouping families together. Still deciding whether or not masks will be worn on buses. 

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

Special Education: Still working through plans.

Learning Plans: Planning to be on-site unless conditions force the school district to move to another model.

Other Safety Measures: Will ask parents to screen students at home before sending them to school everyday. 


The Urbandale Community School District has proposed a start date of Aug. 25 and plans to provide technology and internet access for those who do not currently have access to remote learning.

As of July 14, the district has three plans displayed on their website, which can be viewed below.

Rolling Green Elementary plans to start the year 100 percent online Thursday, July 23.  In order to do so, the district will be submitting a waiver request to provide Required Continuous Learning (all online) as planned for the start of the year.


The Waukee Community School District expects students to return to school on Aug. 24 for in-person learning.

The district is considering a hybrid model that would alternate between groups of students being in the building throughout the week, however they believe their current planning will allow for "typical numbers of students in classrooms." 

The district doesn't detail if they will be requiring masks on their website. They are still working on other topics like transportation, lunch areas, recess and how classes like band will operate.

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.

RELATED: 'We are not ready': Parents of special education students feel Iowa isn't doing enough for their kids

RELATED: Des Moines Public Schools on fall return: 'We intend to require face masks'

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