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Back to school?

Reynolds orders Iowa schools to hold in-person classes

July 20, 2020
By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer , Estherville News

Governor Kim Reynolds held a press conference Friday morning at Van Meter school in central Iowa. The purpose of the conference was to announce her proclamation that schools in Iowa must hold in-person classes.

This happens as cases across Iowa are higher than they were when schools closed in March. Emmet County, as of Sunday, reported 113 cases of COVID-19 from the time the pandemic began here May 13. Seventy-one of those cases have recovered. The Emmet County Treasurer's office reported its closure due to a staff member having COVID-19. Thrifty's store, having just celebrated its grand opening, also has shut down until July 31 due to a staff member having COVID-19.

School districts, along with state agencies and local governments, have about a month to focus on being able to safely welcome back students and teachers to school in-person this fall. Schools and families will have some remote learning options, but more than half of all learning must be in-person.

Article Photos

Last year, teachers and community members welcomed Estherville Lincoln Central Middle School students on the first day of school.
File photo

The thought of welcoming students back to school was echoed in a radio address by Estherville Lincoln Central superintendent Tara Paul, who said the district looked forward to welcoming its students in person. The school board will discuss this issue at its regular meeting at 5:15 p.m. Today.

Exceptions to attending in-person include if parents select remote learning as the best option for their family. The 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 the Iowa Department of Public Health and local public health officials, may determine that individual students or classrooms must move to online learning. Schools may also move to online learning due to severe weather rather than taking a snow day.

The proclamation also removes the limitations on how often and how long a substitute teacher can teach. Education officials said this could assist in situations in which teachers are quarantining due to their own or a household member's health concerns, or allow a teacher at high risk to take medical leave until the risk is reduced.

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

"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," the governor said.

As Estherville News readers weighed in on a return to school on our Facebook page, some parents and students agreed with the governor's assessment.

ELC Senior Maggie White said, "Back to school.. if you are scared, stay home it's that simple. Online learning is not effective and nobody gets anything out of it. This being my senior year, I feel that it is important to be in the classroom learning, preparing myself for my future and college courses instead of sitting behind a computer with no help. There needs to be an option for those worried about COVID-19 to have online learning, but the majority of students should be able to return to in-person classes. "

Sandy Shonkwiler said, "Back to school and normal daily routines."

Kimberly Allis Hageman said, "As the parent of a six-year-old, her mental health is more of a concern for me than getting COVID." Hageman said her daughter told her she's lonely and wants to be with friends, and has not felt like herself.

Others disagreed, at least in part.

Marla Kix Hannover said, "I feel with numbers going up, we as parents should be given an option, giving us an opportunity to decide what's bestthis sending back now scares me because my daughter is asthmatic."

Charlene Alexander said, "No. How is my special needs child supposed to understand the teachers with a mask on? How am I supposed to protect my child with a low immune system?"

In future issues, the Estherville News will talk about precautions and personal protective equipment plans for the schools, and what parents can do to ensure a safe school for all students.



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