WDMCS School Board Position on Recent State Guidance
The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Board of Education has reviewed the guidance stated in the Governor’s Press Conference on July 30 and issued by the Iowa Department of Health (IDPH) and Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) regarding the metrics that would allow a school district to seek permission from the State to transition to 100% online learning due to COVID-19 spread.
The recent guidance prohibits WDMCS from shifting to 100% online learning UNLESS Polk County’s COVID-19 positivity rate over a 14-day period is at least 15% AND school absenteeism is 10% or higher. Even if WDMCS were granted permission by the State for 100% online learning, the guidance only allows WDMCS to do so on a temporary basis of two-week increments.
Iowa law gives school districts exclusive power in all school matters. Each district’s school board has broad legal authority over school decisions. This includes establishing and maintaining schools based on student needs and setting rules of operation. Traditionally, the legislature has understood and supported the need for local control by school districts.
With this in mind, WDMCS believes it is important to respond to the recent guidance and inform staff, students, and families of its position.
The Board of Education directed the WDMCS superintendent to exercise reasonable discretion to apply metrics for transition to 100% online learning due to COVID-19 spread which are lower and more conservative than those set in the guidance. Those thresholds will be determined at a later date in consultation with appropriate officials and health/safety experts.
To be clear, this position relates only to the metrics for temporary transition to 100% online learning due to COVID-19 spread. This is different from, and not to be confused with, the 50% in-person instruction requirement and parent-option remote learning, which WDMCS has implemented through its Return-to-Learn plan.
In addition, the Board of Education directed the WDMCS superintendent to explore a delayed start date to the school year to provide additional staff professional development in support of online and on-site learning environments. The Board may choose to vote on recommendations provided by the superintendent at the Monday, Aug. 10th Board meeting.