Emily Shields is the parent of a third grader and a kindergartener in Des Moines Public Schools. Shields is worried about her kids catching the virus, but is also relieved they’re going back to school.
“My daughter just starting kindergarten hasn’t had the opportunity to make friends yet,” she says, “and it’s hard for her not having that chance.”
Des Moines is the only district in the state that has not been in compliance with the state’s requirement that all students get at least 50 percent in-person instruction. The district’s hybrid plan does call for splitting up the week, so students take classes in school some days and online others. Fifth grade teacher Courtney Starbuck will have 7 to 10 students in her classroom at a time.
“I have to trust that the mitigation that we’ve put in place is going to be enough,” Starbuck says, “and I’m going to have to be extremely cautious and hope that that’s going to be okay.”
Preschoolers in Des Moines returned to school buildings last week. Middle school students will return next Monday and Des Moines high schools will reopen on November 10. At that point the district will meet state requirements to provide at least half of instruction in-person.
Des Moines district officials say the parents of 41 percent of students in the district chose to keep their children at home, for full-time online district classes.
(By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)