Iowa City schools to apply for another two-week online waiver

Board members and district administrators reflected on the district’s first day back at school, after the district was denied a temporary injunction in last week’s lawsuit.


Abby Watkins

The Iowa City Community School Bard meeting pictured on Tuesday Sep. eight 2020. During the meeting the board discussed a recent lawsuit.

Brian Grace and Claire Benson

As Iowa City Community School District students returned to school online, the school board faced decisions on how to proceed with the school year after being denied a temporary injunction in the lawsuit seeking local control of school reopenings.

The district was granted permission by the state to start the first two weeks of instruction  online on Aug. 26.  At the school board meeting held Sept. 8, the board planned to apply for another two-week waiver so that the district can continue online learning past Sept. 22, which is when the current waiver expires.

The school board and other district administrators discussed eventually moving to a hybrid model, but said there are no definitive plans yet.

Iowa City schools Interim Superintendent Matt Degner said the district is considering how University of Iowa students will impact COVID-19 positivity rates in Iowa City, and will alter the district’s learning plan if positive cases continue to rise.

“[Our intent is to] get the university students acclimated to the community, then review the plan,” Degner said. “If after a month everything is up and running, we can get to the hybrid – if positivity rates go a different direction, we will focus on that and change the plan.”

Board President Shawn Eyestone said that during the district’s first day back, many students and staff experienced power outages at their homes.

The outages also impacted the school district technology help desk, which has been focused on responding to over 2,000 help requests by students and parents since Friday, said the district’s Director of Technology and Innovation Adam Kurth.

“We had our staff working through the weekend and on the holiday yesterday trying to respond to those [requests],” Kurth said. “At this point we have resolved about 950 of those requests, which still leaves more than 1,000 to go.”

Board Member Charlie Eastham inquired about whether or not the schools will provide onsite COVID-19 testing for students and staff – the district’s Chief Operating Officer Chace Ramey said that the district did look into it, but its insurance carrier said that the district is not covered to perform such tests, and that the district cannot apply to be covered for them.

Ramey said that the district will have to refer students and staff to outside healthcare providers, and that contracting outside healthcare providers to do the tests could be a possibility.

District Director of Teaching and Learning Diane Schumacher said that based on reports given by elementary school principals within the district, they had a successful first day back to school and were able to keep students engaged.

Schumacher said that elementary classes are providing both synchronous and asynchronous learning for their students, while also incorporating office hours into instructor’s schedules.

Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Scott Kibby at Iowa City schools observed second level education including middle and high school classes on their first day back. Kibby said he witnessed classes with full or almost full attendance, and instructors did their best to connect with students as well as troubleshoot any technology issues that occurred.

ICCSD Special Education Director Lisa Glenn recommended during the meeting that the school board adjust their current 100% off-site model to allow for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to go on-site for specific services moving forward.

“Those are services that are necessary to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education,” Glenn said. “That’s always our bar in special-ed.”

Several board members in attendance including J.P. Claussen, Charlie Eastham, and Lisa Williams said they were in support of the recommendation.

Chace Ramey addressed the future of the school district’s Grab & Go lunch program, which has been providing free meals to students since March. He said the school district has been approved through December to continue the program, and that they provided more than 2,000 free lunches today.

“Those are the highest numbers we’ve had for Grab & Go meals since before the Fourth of July, which I think is just awesome,” Ramey said.