Nearly 10 percent of schools in the state have shifted from in-person to online classes. Iowa Department of Education director Ann Lebo said her agency approved 19 different waiver requests since Tuesday from public and private schools seeking to move partially or entirely to online classes.
“Because requesting a waiver is just one option for schools and there are many adjustments schools can make without needing additional approval from the department, we continue to encourage schools to contact us to help them work through solutions,” Lebo said. “We know that sports and activities play an important role in our schools and communities. We are also working with districts on options that allow them to do what is best for the families they serve.”
The agency is hosting a webinar today for school administrators to discuss their options. Lebo said yesterday that 43 public districts and non-public schools have shifted some or all grades online.
That’s what happened in Sioux City yesterday. After several 7th graders at West Middle School in Sioux City tested positive for Covid or were showing symptoms of the virus, all 7th graders were shifted to online classes Wednesday. After parents notified local media of the situation, school officials announced late Thursday afternoon that the entire middle school would shift to emergency virtual learning this morning.
Sioux City School Board member Monique Scarlett would like to see classes shift entirely online for several weeks.
“We know these holidays are going to bring even more of an increase if people are not practicing social distancing and wearing their mask appropriately,” she said. “At family gatherings, that’s going to be tough to do.”
Scarlett has been pushing for the district to shift all grades to a hybrid model, structured so fewer students are in buildings and they spend two days at school every week and the other three days at home.
“I believe that if we are proactive, then things that are transpiring now will not continue to happen,” she said.
Scarlett said the Sioux City district is in “reactionary” mode now, “scrambling” to figure out how to reassign teachers and ensure kids have access to the internet at home.
(Additional reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)