School districts, like Cedar Rapids Community Schools, whose buildings were badly damaged by the Aug. 10 derecho will be able to start the school year with all online classes, Gov. Kim Reynolds said during her news conference on Thursday.
“On Friday, we’ll be updating our existing disaster proclamation to accommodate the needs of those schools as they begin the 2020-21 school year,” the governor said.
Reynolds said 14 school districts had reported significant damage to their school building.
In an update for district families on Thursday, CRCSD Superintendent Noreen Bush said, “Within our school district, all buildings have damage. Some not as much as others, but attention none the least. There is major tree damage at all buildings. We have significant roof damage at 16 buildings, minor roof damage at 12 buildings, and puncture damage and hood damage at the other 6. There is water and structural damage in many buildings that had major roof damage.”
Bush said the start of the school year will be delayed, but a new starting date cannot be determined until there is “a building assessment for 30 properties [and] a confirmation that the City’s infrastructure is secure.”
On July 17, Reynolds announced that all schools in Iowa must provide at 50 percent in-person instruction to students, unless they receive a waiver to from the Iowa Department of Education to use more than 50 percent online instruction for a limited period of time. On July 30, the governor announced that districts could only qualify for a waiver if the county their schools are located in have a 14-day average positivity rate of 15 percent or higher in its COVID-19 tests, and an absentee rate of 10 percent at a school. Waivers would also only be good for two weeks.
Twitter access! JHS lost many trees & our skywalk its roof. We have exterior & interior damage. Thanks Supt Bush & Principal Hawley for photos. We do not know when but WE WILL BE BACK! keep helping your neighbor, stay safe, we will move through this together. #jeffbleedblue pic.twitter.com/Z14I8bySpB
— Jefferson High (@CRJeffersonHigh) August 13, 2020
The Iowa City Community School District and the Iowa State Education Association, which represents approximately 30,000 educators statewide, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the governor’s order and allow local school boards to make decisions regarding how their schools operate during the pandemic.
The change the governor promised to make on Friday will allow school districts with damaged buildings to switch to online education without have to apply for a waiver every two weeks.
“The proclamation will permit those districts whose school buildings have been damaged by the derecho to move to primarily remote learning while they repair their buildings and for students and teachers to return safely,” Reynolds said on Thursday.