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PUBLIC HEALTH

Governor urges lawmakers to require in-person learning

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reynolds kuemper6 19-12-12

Gov. Kim Reynolds is urging lawmakers to require in-person learning. Here, she visits with Kuemper students Keziah Janssen, Vivian Meyers and Kayla Riesenberg in December 2019.

State lawmakers should give parents the option to send their children to school for full-time, in-person classes, Gov. Kim Reynolds said in her annual Condition of the State speech last week.

“We can’t wait any longer,” Reynolds said. “Our kids can’t wait any longer.”

Reynolds has prioritized in-person learning because of the strain and stress that part-time or virtual classes have caused working parents during the coronavirus pandemic. Student test scores also slipped after the last two months of the past school year were effectively canceled by the pandemic and as students have struggled to learn from home.

Schools in west central Iowa have operated with in-person classes, with some exceptions. Carroll High School students alternated days learning at school and at home until after the New Year, when they resumed full-time classes at school.

“We still have challenges, but there is the possibility of real improvement in regards to COVID-19 around the corner,” Superintendent Casey Berlau wrote to parents in a recent email in reference to the disease caused by the coronavirus. “We are thankful we have been able to have in-person learning, and we plan to continue in-person learning through the end of the year.”

Reynolds’ call for in-person learning requirements has the most effect on school districts in more-populous areas of the state, where high rates of infection forced school leaders to switch to online learning for weeks or months.

“Asking the legislature to adopt 100 percent in-person learning as an additional choice despite community spread will only further exacerbate an already untenable situation,” said Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, in response to Reynolds. “This is not giving parents more choice; this is giving schools less ability to protect and promote the great learning they must provide.”

Local schools have not reported significant virus outbreaks among students but have, at times, been plagued by large numbers of students forced to quarantine at home because they were potentially exposed to the coronavirus.

Carroll Community schools had nearly 200 quarantined students at its peak, but a mask mandate the district imposed in November largely has ameliorated the problem. Under a change to state quarantine guidelines, students don’t have to stay home if they potentially were exposed to the virus if they and the infected person both were wearing masks.

Fewer than 20 students each at Carroll Community and Kuemper Catholic schools were in quarantine last week.

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