BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
JOHNSTON – Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday afternoon that schools not complying with the state’s 50% in-person instruction could face penalties from the state.
Those penalties include not having days count toward instructional days, which would require making up the days, as well as discipline for school administrators.
“It’s the law. It’s the statute and it passed unanimously,” Reynolds said.
“If they fail to comply or follow the law then the days they’re not in compliance will not count toward instructional time and it will have to be made up. School administrators could also be subject to licensure disclipine as well.”
Reynolds’ proclamation regarding school openings requires a minimum of 50% in-person instruction. Schools that are in counties seeing higher than 15% positive testing and seeing at least 10% absenteeism among staff and students can apply for two-week periods of remote learning.
Anything outside of those parameters violates the law, which was Senate File 2310. The law passed unanimously in the legislature and requires in-person learning as the primary mode of education
“That’s what we’re working to implement,” Reynolds said.
The law also gives Reynolds authority to adjust those parameters and reporters in the pool pressed her on why the rules were so stringent.
One reporter drew some emotion for the governor when asked if the risk was worth a student getting sick or a teacher potentially dying from an infection.
“Right there – these scare tactics from the media when we’re trying to balance opening safely and responsibly, Reynolds said.
“We have an obligation to these children and the underprivileged already left behind. We’re gonna see the gap continue to widen. They’ve had five months without any type of instruction.”
She then asked the media to help with solution.
“I want the media to give the numbers in context. Help us. You’re a part of the solution,” she said. “Hold me accountable… ask me anything, that goes with being the governor. But we need to put numbers into context.”
Reynolds reiterated that the school setting is a safe zone for children, and a place where they get a hot meal, social and emotional learning and behavioral support. For some she said, it’s the only place they get it.
“What we’re doing to these kids is unconscionable. The fear that were instilling in them,” she said visually holding back her emotions. “And so we all have a responsibility to do better including me – and we can – and I’m working on it every single day. “
According to her order, parents have the flexibility to put their children in remote learning within the school districts, but she asked for a compromise to help schools fulfill the 50% in-person learning.
All of Lee County’s three public and private school districts have set up a return to learn that includes at least 50% in person instruction with on-line remote learning available.
Reynolds said hospitalization rates are showing that Iowans are doing the right thing. However, according to the state’s official website coronavirus.iowa.gov. hospitalization and ICU rates have more than doubled since a low of 118 on June 27.
Those numbers are substantially below the state’s peak hospitalization day of 417 on May 6, however, and the state still has more than 3,000 hospital beds and 340 ventilators available.
Lee County will probably see its 100th case in the next 24 to 48 hours when considering its sharp increase in the 14-day rolling total of cases. The county has witnessed 13 new positive cases in the past seven days with two new cases on Tuesday for a total of 97 to date.
Despite the increase, the county still has less than 3.5% of those being tested coming up positive, which requires the schools to be in 50% in-person instruction.
To date 886 Iowans have died from the disease, 617 are listed as complicated by other pre-existing conditions. The site shows that only 55 are reported to have died from the coronavirus without any preexisting conditions.
The governor also announced that $125 million from the state’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding allocations will be split 60/40 between state municipalities and counties to help offset expenses incurred as a result of the COVID pandemic.