Two Iowa public school districts, Urbandale and Waukee, announced Monday they would not be following the mandate requiring Iowa schools to hold 50 percent of classes in person.
Gov. Kim Reynolds responded to these actions in her Tuesday press conference by stating schools not following the mandate would have their instruction time discredited and would have to make up these hours later in the school year.
School administrators may also be subject to licensure discipline if their school does not follow the mandate.
"I want to be very clear, schools that choose not to return to school for at least 50 percent in-person instruction are not defying me, they are defying the law," said Gov. Reynolds during the press conference.
Senate File 2310, which includes the mandate requiring schools to deliver primarily in-person instruction, gives Gov. Reynolds the power to allow any school to move to online-only instruction under the public health disaster emergency currently lasting through Aug. 23.
The state school districts have specifically disagreed with the proclamations put forth by Gov. Reynolds.
A statement from Waukee Community School District released Monday states the Waukee School Board and Superintendent Brad Buck disagree with the proclamation stating schools may not move to online-only instruction unless their county has a 15 percent positive test rate for COVID-19 and have a 10 percent absenteeism rate for students. Counties with a 20 percent positive test rate for COVID-19 would not have to fulfill the absentee requirement.
Gov. Reynolds claimed these guidelines were requested by the schools planning to defy state law, but later said she hasn’t met directly with any public school administrators in the Des Moines metro area in the last several weeks as new guidelines were established.
In this scenario, Gov. Reynolds said Senate File 2310 supersedes local control and school board decisions.
But the statement from Waukee Community School District cites Iowa Code giving public school districts exclusive jurisdiction in all school matters and authorizing school boards to establish their own rules of governance.
Parents have the choice of sending their child to school or to choose remote learning, but school's return-to-learn plans must provide a remote learning alternative for this choice to be available. Most school districts have this option available Gov. Reynolds said.
Rolling Green Elementary School is the only school to be approved for online-only instruction, but the case was unique Gov. Reynolds said, as their start date was July 23, thus didn’t have sufficient time to prepare for new guidelines announced as late July 17 and July 30.
Rolling Green Elementary was not approved for their second waiver request, which must be filed every two weeks, and is required by the state to return to in-person instruction this Friday.
However, the Urbandale School Board voted unanimously to continue online-only instruction at Rolling Green Elementary regardless of state law.
Gov. Reynolds claimed less than five other school districts have submitted a waiver to move to online-only instruction.
Ames Community School District and Cedar Rapids Community School District are among others considering defying state law.