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

Gov. Reynolds orders schools to prioritize in-person learning this fall

Iowa's governor said school teaches more than just academics. She said it's important for children's social-emotional development.

VAN METER, Iowa — As schools prepare for a new academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered districts to prepare for in-person learning in the fall. 

"There's so much more to schools than academic instruction," Reynolds said during a press briefing Friday in Van Meter. "In school, students learn to socialize with their peers, develop social and emotional skills, benefit from healthy meals and physical activity, a safe environment as well as access to mental health and other support services that can't be provided in an online learning environment."

A law passed in response to the pandemic last month requires schools to primarily teach core subjects in person unless the governor signs a proclamation. 

The Iowa Department of Education has defined "primarily" to mean more than 50%.

That means schools are required to have more than 50% of their core instruction in-person this fall unless the state grants them a waiver. 

The proclamation signed Friday also clarified a few things when it comes to remote learning.

According to a release sent out by Reynolds' office, remote learning is authorized when: 

  • Parents select remote learning as the best option for their family;
  • The Iowa Department of Education in consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health approves a temporary move to online learning for an entire building or district in response to public health conditions;
  • A school, in consultation with state and local public health officials, determines that individual students or classrooms must be temporarily moved to online learning; or
  • A school chooses to temporarily move to online learning because of severe weather instead of taking a snow day.

The proclamation also relaxed substitute teacher qualifications to expand the pool of teachers that can serve. 

It does not address when schools should make the call to shut down if they start seeing COVID-19 cases.  

WATCH: Gov. Reynolds answers questions on latest school guidance

RELATED: School nurses expressing concerns over Return to Learn plans

Van Meter Schools Superintendent Deron Durflinger asked the state to release clear guidance on that. 

"One thing we've learned with the baseball/softball situation is everybody interprets the guidance differently, and that's led to some issues that maybe didn't have to happen," Durflinger said. "Hopefully we can get that guidance."

Reynolds said the Iowa Department of Education is working with the Iowa Department of Public Health to create that guidance, and that it should be released by Aug. 1.

READ: Gov. Reynolds' full proclamation for July 17, 2020

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