Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the closure of all Iowa schools through the end of the school year during a press conference on Friday, April 17.
“While I would like nothing more than to open up our schools and classrooms in May, we have to prioritize the health and safety of Iowans,” said Gov. Reynolds. “With our students at home, we must rely on continuous learning plans that are in place and prepare school districts for ‘Return to Learn’ in the fall. I greatly appreciate the work of Director Ann Lebo and all our school administrators, educators and staff during this unprecedented time.”
Schools were initially closed in mid-March help stop the spread of COVID-19. That closure was extended to April 30 during a press conference on April 2.
"I think it’s the right decision, just health-wise, safety-wise," Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks said of the latest decision.
He added that the decision to close school through the end of the school year was a possibility the district was preparing for, as well as the possibility for school to start back up on May 1.
"And I think now our big thing is to start planning on is what do we do about the return to learn," Wicks said. "We do need to be thinking about our students who have been missed a number of days of school, we need to get something worked out for that return to learn. That will be imperative."
Administration, staff and the school board will continue working together on exactly what that looks like for the district moving forward.
Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced in a press release that the state of Iowa will:Waive instructional time requirements for the remainder of the 2019-2020 regularly scheduled academic year for schools that continue to provide continuous learning through one of two approved options, voluntary educational enrichment opportunities, required educational services, or a combination of the two. Require schools to submit a Return to Learn Plan to the Iowa Department of Education by July 1 outlining ways they will address disruptions to learning as a result of COVID-19. This could include summer school, enrichment activities or other opportunities to address the needs of learners. Waive the requirement that schools start no earlier than Aug. 23, allowing school districts and nonpublic schools to make local decisions about the length of their 2020-2021 academic year.
"It sounds like we could start earlier and we’ll be looking at that and working with our board and staff and just try to work out the best situation during this unprecedented time," Wicks said.
He added that they have also been looking at a number of options for graduation, though nothing has been finalized.
"We know that we’re going to have graduation, we want to make it as special as possible. We just have to decide on that date and the process that we’re going to go through with that," Wicks said.
For now, the district will continue using its Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunity plan.
"We’ve just got this going, we want to stay solid with it, work to improve it, work to make more contacts, try to get more and more kids involved," Wicks said.
He said staff, parents and students will need to keep cooperating to help ease the transition for the district's "return to learn."
"We’re just going to continue to grow and learn and let’s all work together to get through this," Wicks said. "I know it’s a difficult time but it is what it is and now we need to transform our environment as opposed to the environment transforming us. That’s what we’re going to do."