des moines

Des Moines board approves hybrid instruction plan for students

Sept. 22, 2020
The plan would bring the district into compliance with a state mandate to have at least half of its classes offered in person.

The Des Moines (Iowa) school board has approved a hybrid instruction plan that would bring the district into compliance with a state mandate that at least half of classes be held in person this fall.

The Des Moines Register reports that students could return to in-person classes starting next month, but only if the number of local coronavirus cases meets guidelines being established by the district.

The plan calls for students to be divided into two groups and attend in-person classes two days a week one week and three days the next week.

The district would phase in the schedule starting Oct. 12 with preschool students. Elementary schools would reopen Oct. 19, and middle schools on Oct. 26. High school students would attend their first in-person classes on Nov. 10.

However, those start dates depend on metrics that the district has not yet approved. The school board will meet next week to establish those criteria with the help of local public health officials, the district said.

Board member Kalyn Cody said he supports numbers introduced last week by Superintendent Tom Ahart that call for Polk County's positivity rate to be less than 5%, the number of new Covid-19 cases to drop to one a day for every 100,000 residents before reopening school buildings.

That's more stringent than the metrics used by the state, which require in-person classes unless the county positivity rate is 15% or higher and the school absentee rate reaches 10%.

Board member Teree Caldwell-Johnson questioned whether the district should adopt the more stringent metrics.

"I think that we're setting ourselves up to forever be out of compliance, and for a very long period of time, not returned to school,"  Caldwell-Johnson said.

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