The Des Moines School Board has directed the district’s superintendent to come up with a new plan for both in-person and virtual classes, but did not set a time frame for bringing students back into school buildings.
The state’s largest district started the school year with most students taking classes online, without a state waiver to do so. Board member Kalyn Cody argued virtual instruction is safest at this point in the pandemic.
“I mean if we open up all 60 of our buildings, that’s 60 potential hotspots within a 20 mile radius, but that’s going to spread outward very, very quickly,” Cody said during last night’s board meeting.
Board member Kelli Soyer said she’s worried about the students who are struggling with virtual instruction.
“It’s not working for everyone,” she said.
Board member Terri Caldwell-Johnson agreed.
“I feel like we’re failing a lot of our students,” Caldwell-Johnson said.
Board member Rob Barron said the district has to balance the need to protect staff with growing demands from parents who want their kids back in the classroom.
“I don’t take lightly being out of compliance with the state, but even if we were to say: ‘Come hell or high water we are bringing everybody back in person,’ that doesn’t happen tomorrow,” Barron said. “We are still out of compliance probably at least a few weeks before we can turn that model around and bring kids back.”
A handful of parents spoke to the board during a period for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Holly Kilborn-O’Neall said online classes provide the safest and most consistent connections for students and teachers.
“This first week of school has gone remarkably well,” she said.
Justin Minor, who also addressed the board in its online forum, is among 70 percent of parents who responded this summer that they wanted their kids to return to classrooms.
“Let’s mask up and go to school,” he said.
There are about 33,000 students in the Des Moines Public Schools.