Scott County superintendents said they could work with Gov. Kim Reynolds' plan to get kids back in school this fall, but union representatives called it "dangerous."
The new guidelines tie instruction models to the 14-day average of positive COVID-19 cases. Districts are expected to be fully in person if the positivity rate is 0 to 14%, so long as healthcare resources are stable and state and federal pandemic recommendations are being followed.
Families, and students in quarantine because of COVID exposure can opt for a hybrid plan. In the July 17 plan, schools could use a in-school or 50% in school program, with families able to opt for fully online schooling. Thursday's new guidelines only allow for an online instruction waiver if the positivity rate is 15% or higher, or if other criteria is met, though parents may still request online learning. A waiver only lasts 14 days.
The Pleasant Valley Community School District approved a hybrid plan Wednesday, and has asked the state to clarify what its hybrid model wording means. In the meantime, it will prepare for the hybrid plan its board approved, Superintendent Brian Strusz said.
“We’ll just continue to move forward with our current plan,” Strusz said.
North Scott Community School District’s plan has all students returning physically to class, and that has not changed by the revised guidelines, Superintendent Joe Stutting said.
Davenport's school board had also voted for a hybrid model, and asked for a waiver to conduct online-only classes. Thursday afternoon, Robert Kobylski, superintendent of Davenport schools, said he was still processing the state’s announcement. Further details were not available by Friday evening.
The Bettendorf Community School District did not provide details by Friday evening.
Unions call the plan 'dangerous'
The presidents of the Davenport Education Association and the Bettendorf Education Association said the state’s new requirements were dangerous.
John Kealey, DEA president, said other communities and states have opened up too soon without proper precautions, causing a rise in the number of infections. He pointed to skyrocketing cases in Texas and Florida as examples.
“This is a dangerous road to go down,” Kealey said.
The state’s guidelines create more questions than answers and that is very frustrating for the people planning the resumption of classes, Mary Heeringa, BEA president, said.
Heeringa said the hybrid model was the safest option for students and school employees and the community at large.
“We just need to do everything we can to keep people as safe as we can in our community,” Heeringa said.
The Bettendorf school board was expected to decide which model to adopt Monday night and the BEA’s recommendation will be the hybrid model, Heeringa said.
As of Friday, Scott County's positivity average is 6.8%; Muscatine's is 12.6%. The statewide positivity rate has been 15% or higher on only two days since early June.
County medical director disagrees with the plan
Scott County Medical Director Dr. Louis Katz said Friday morning that he disagreed with the thresholds established in the state guidelines. At 15%, a pandemic could be considered out of control. He would have used more stringent criteria-- 5% indicates sustained control of the pandemic. New York City, for example, has called for online instruction if the positivity rate is more than 3%.
With, however, what he understands of the safety measures districts can apply, Katz said school under the guidelines should be all right if the county’s positivity rates decline.
They were showing a downward trend, and needed to keep dropping, hopefully to the lower levels observed in May and June.
If they flatten or increase, it could cause problems for the school districts, he said.