Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Kim Reynolds has announced Iowa schools will not reopen in May and the traditional school year is over.

“Believe me, I would like nothing more than to stand before you today and announce that Iowa will be open for school in May,” Reynolds said during her daily news conference. “…I can’t tell you with certainty based on the Department of Public Health’s data that they’re providing to the office that early May will be the right time for students, teachers and staff to gather again in their classrooms, so therefore I regret to say that Iowa schools will not be reopening for this school year.”

The governor said she’ll make this order official on May 1st. She says it was among the many difficult decisions she’s had to make sure the pandemic.

“All of the decisions that I’ve had to make have just had unbelievable repercussions on Iowans, families and students and businesses all across the state,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds has waived the mandatory school start date that falls in the final week of August — so schools may begin the next school year earlier.

“Maybe there’s a possibility for schools to start three weeks early and start some of that remediation,” Reynolds said, “so that we can start to see where the kids are at and help provide them the instruction they need to get them to where they should be at and able to move forward”

Ann Lebo

Iowa Department of Education director Ann Lebo said school districts must present a “Return to Learn” plan to the state by July 1st to help students catch up for lost time in the classroom.

“This plan may include options for summer school, enrichment activities or other opportunities designed to address disruptions to learning as a result of COVID-19,” Lebo said.

Lebo joined the governor today to discuss some of the details of school closures.

“Closing schools through the end of the year is not an easy decision and we do know the challenges this creates,” Lebo said, “but we also know this decision is necessary to ensure the health and safety of those we serve.”

There are 327 public districts and 179 non-public schools in the state. Lebo said schools providing either mandatory or voluntary continuous learning options for students this spring will not be required to make up lost weeks of school.

The governor emphasized tht she made this decision because Iowa has not yet hit the expected peak in COVID-19 cases — the state report released this morning showed 191 new cases have been identified. Spring sports are cancelled. State officials will notify schools by June 1st about the status of summer sports.

On March 15th, Reynolds recommended that schools close for four weeks. In early June, the governor ordered schools to stay closed through April 30th. She had promised school officials two-weeks advance notice of her decision about the rest of the school year. The Department of Education’s director said none of these decisions have been easy — and Lebo suggested educating students outside of “bricks and mortar” will be a focus in our increasingly digital future.