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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

'The idea of local control has been ripped away from locals': ISEA pushes back against latest Return to Learn guidance

Iowa release new guidance Thursday outlining positivity rate thresholds counties need to be at before schools can move online.

DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the biggest concerns for kids returning to school in the fall? The health of their teachers.

"Where we're going to have problems is going to be from educator to educator, for adults," Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday. "When teachers are getting together and cohorting and that's when we really have to think about, because that's where the spread is more likely to occur."

But the Iowa State Education Association doesn't feel teachers are properly protected, especially since the newest guidance allows asymptomatic teachers with known COVID-19 exposures back in the classroom if there is a staffing shortage.

"The idea of local control has been ripped away from locals," ISEA President Mike Beranek said.

Districts can call staff back to the building if they are considered "critical personnel."

Until the governor's July 17 proclamation where she ordered schools to start preparing for in-person learning, Beranek says the Education Association has been part of state reopening discussions. 

But not anymore.

A request for comment from the governor's office about the status of discussions with ISEA was not immediately returned.

"We want our students to be learning this fall. But we want that learning to take place in environments which are safe and healthy for everyone," Beranek said. "And it's our belief that a local school district working with local health professionals are the most qualified to make the decisions necessary for that local." 

Contact tracing is another concern. If a school identified a COVID-19 case, state guidance says they have to identify close contacts and quarantine exposed students and staff. 

Beranek says there isn't specific enough guidance on how to do that, and that schools may not have staff they can dedicate to contact tracing.

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