Reynolds calls on parents to push for students’ return to school

By: - December 9, 2020 3:39 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a press conference at Iowa PBS on Dec. 9, 2020. (Screenshot of Iowa PBS video)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she wants students to return to in-person classes, but the decision is ultimately up to the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature this upcoming session.

During her news conference Wednesday, Reynolds said she is concerned about students lagging behind expected educational attainment levels this year, in comparison to years past.

The Iowa Department of Education reported that reading scores have dropped among Iowa students, ranging from 5% for kindergarten to 21% for first grade.

Reynolds encouraged parents to “advocate” for their children and contact their local school officials to return to in-person classes. 

“I think we need to do everything we can right now to get students back in the classroom,” Reynolds said. “I believe eventually we’re going to potentially be doing more harm than we are by keeping them out of school.”

Some school districts have already heavily fought the state’s 50% in-person learning requirement, filing lawsuits alleging it impedes local control and puts staff at risk of contracting the virus.

Reynolds said Iowa has not recorded any “superspreader” events at Iowa schools and said studies have shown students are not likely to spread the virus between each other.

Des Moines and Waukee school officials said contact tracing has shown the majority of positive COVID-19 cases among students stemmed from household spread. But they also credited mitigation efforts, like requiring face masks, for helping to curb the spread of the virus.

Medical professionals also agree that face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washing in schools have helped mitigate the spread of the virus.

In Iowa, 9% of school districts do not require students to wear masks, according to the Iowa State Education Association. Reynolds said does not plan on enforcing face coverings at schools.

Nationally, math and reading scores have dropped in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. Students already started the fall semester at a disadvantage when many were pulled out of classrooms due to shutdowns.

Sarah Barthole, a mother of two Ankeny students, was invited by the governor to speak during the news conference on Wednesday and said she has been advocating for returning to in-person classes since the summer. Ankeny is currently using a hybrid learning model where students mix between in-person and virtual classes.

While Barthole is able to work from home, she said she still struggles to find time to help her kids with online classes.

“When our boys are learning from home we’re not always able to give them the same time and attention that their teachers give them,” Barthole said. “My work doesn’t stop or slow down just because my kids are at home with me.”

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