DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House and Iowa Senate agreed on Monday afternoon to waive the requirement to reschedule days canceled following Governor Kim Reynolds’ recommendation they close for four weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Reynolds said she supported that effort.
Any classes previously scheduled from March 16, 2020 to April 12, 2020 will not be required to be rescheduled. Legislation will advance today to implement this agreement.
“This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year,” Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said.
“In this time of uncertainty, the legislature is working to deliver some certainty for Iowans,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, stated. “One of the most common questions our members receive is about rescheduling canceled schools days. Now, Iowa schools and families can have some certainty regarding these four weeks of the school calendar.”
Reynolds said during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center on Monday afternoon that she will sign that legislation. She noted the pending legislation will give her authority to provide an extended waiver should schools have to say closed longer if it is determined that is necessary.
“So right now what we’re trying to address is flexibility for districts to not have to meet instructional time. No, we don’t know where the end of this is going to be with a four week waiver, that is certainly going to impact needs for graduates and the requirements of the state. So that flexibility allows us to be proactive, consider what future implications might be come into play and let districts figure out what their their other plans might be to address those needs,” Dr. Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, explained later during the press conference.
“This really gave them I think, some relief that they were looking for, as they try to plan what their next steps are in educating Iowa students,” Reynolds added.
Reynolds also said the Iowa Department of Education have implemented plans to assist low income families who receive reduced or free meal plans.
“Many low income families who rely on meal programs in their schools are worried about how they will feed their children at home. Iowa has already applied for and received a USDA waiver to allow schools to continue serving meals upon upon closure. Schools will be able to activate their summer meal programs and provide meals in non group settings such as drive thru pickup or a grab and go,” Reynolds said.
She also noted that the Iowa Departments of Education, Public Health, and Human Services are working to address child care needs for parents who are unable to stay at home.
She said policies could include financial assistance for providers based on enrollment rather than attendance, and expedited licensure for individual providers.
“The need for child care during this time doesn’t go away. And so we’re working with individual providers. We’re working with superintendents to stand up alternative sites, particularly as the governor mentioned, for employees of hospitals, first responders, other essential workers during this time who really can’t afford to be away from work. And our goal around that is to really ensure that providers are still able to operate safe child care settings. Sending children to grandma and grandpa is not a good idea at the moment,” Dr. Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, said.
Throughout the press conference, Reynolds and her key staff emphasized the need to practice social distancing Reynolds said every Iowan plays a part.
“And I’m also calling upon each and every Iowan to be an active part of our statewide mitigation strategy, you really can make a difference. Now is a critical time when we can mitigate and slow the spread of the virus in our state, but it takes all of us working together and to do the right things to make that happen. So I just urge all of you to follow the CDC guidelines and take preventive measures to protect your health as well as the health of others. Wash your hands frequently cover your coughs, clean frequently touched surfaces daily, Avoid crowds. Consider staying home as much as possible, especially if you’re a vulnerable population with underlying conditions. Avoid all non essential air travel and especially cruises and, most importantly, if you are sick, stay home and call your doctor first before going in for an appointment. They will run you through an assessment and help get you the information that you need. These steps may seems too simple to combat a worldwide pandemic. But they are the most important things that we can do right now to mitigate the virus and to slow it spread in our state,” Reynolds stated.
She was asked whether or not she would order restaurants closed like governors in other states have done.
“Well, we’re continuing to assess the situation. We’re not making that recommendation right now. But I’ve said the same thing with schools. So each day, we sat down and multiple times throughout the day, we continue to assess the information that we’re receiving. Again, we can address this and you can do that without me ordering these businesses to close. If you are sick, you have a fever or cough, any respiratory illness, stay home, practice, social distancing. Once we apply the basic recommendations that the Department of Public Health and CDC is making, we start to have the impact that we’re looking for without implementing some of those additional procedures. So I’m not saying we’re not at this point we are not, but we’re going to continue to assess the situation,” Reynolds announced. “Hey, I bet they do take out so call an order and pick it up and take it home. So there are other things that we can do to support our business and industry to help keep them up and running. But most importantly, again, if you’re sick, stay home and practice social distancing.”
Reynolds also announced that another Iowan in Dallas County tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the number to 23 positive cases in the state. She said a second shift is now in place to continue testing at the State Hygienic Laboratory to increase their capacity for testing from 54 to 108 tests a day, and a third shift may be added to help keep up with processing tests. She also said national labs are beginning to test and will report results to the state hygienic lab.