BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
JOHNSTON – As part of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds biweekly update, two Cardinal of Eldon educators and a parent spoke to the media about the importance of returning to classrooms.
Joel Pederson, who’s in his 11th year as superintendent with Cardinal said his plan was to bring all students back to school, but provide virtual learning options for parents in the district.
“We want to come back 100% and what keeps me up at night is the kids who don’t have Internet. We’re working on that, but it’s a challenge,” Pederson said. “And I worry about not having eyes on our kids. Schools play an important role in keeping kids safe.”
Pederson said the focus can’t just be on COVID, but other health issues that impact the students when not in school.
“My message is its not just one or the other, but so there are so many things happening, and that is coming from the heart. “
Bethany Short is a teacher in the district dealing with students with behavioral disorders. She said she has spoken with families and she is getting all of her students back in the classroom when school reopens.
“I’m getting 100% of my kids back, so I’m really excited because that says something about the way they feel about me in my district,” she said.
“As humans I believe we’re built for community. We’re meant to do this together, and I think that’s what’s best for (students) is to continue to see others face-to-face, in person.”
Reynolds said Cardinal’s story isn’t unique in terms of local districts working diligently on Return to Learn plans and said the vast majority of districts are also making it work within the parameters of state law.
Senate File 2310 was signed by Reynolds into law at the end of June and makes in-person learning the primary model of instruction in the state. Gov. Reynolds proclamation last week requires that districts with less than 15% positivity for COVID testing maintain at least 50% in-person learning. Schools with higher than 15% positivity and 10% absenteeism can request a two-week waiver for remote learning.
She said only five counties exceed the 15% threshold currently.
Dr. Ann Lebo, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, said the law doesn’t specifically state 50% in-class learning is the requirement, as was pointed out a by pool reporter, but said the interpretation of the law is that primary would mean the majority of learning and 50% is that threshold.
Pederson said there are no perfect answers in the Return to Learn initiatives, and flexibility will be the key to getting students back to school.
“No solutions that we know of will work 100% of the time, but we need you to give us grace, and call us if you have concerns – and stop by and see us,” he said.
“Positivity is needed more than ever and we can rise to this challenge with flexibility going forward.”
Reduced testing isn’t an issue of capacity or supplies
Reynolds said more than 500,000 Iowans have been tested, which amounts to 1 in 6 residents, but she said testing numbers are down.
“We had a higher demand after July 4 and this represents some leveling out. But my main message here is that this is not a capacity or supply issue.”
She said Test Iowa will be providing more testing options and an announcement on those changes could come next week.