A COVID-19 resurgence this fall threatens to disrupt our kids’ education once again. And while Iowans are hopeful that most kids can return to their traditional brick and mortar school in August – for many families, the decision to have their child go back may create unacceptable risks for either the child or the family.
What if, for example, the student had a sibling or parent that is immune-compromised or at high risk for COVID 19 complications? Additionally, what if the child lives with or has a grandparent as a caregiver? If that is the case, a brick and mortar school may be the wrong place to learn during this pandemic.
One option for families is to enroll the student in one of Iowa’s three full-time online schools. These schools are in the ADM, Clayton Ridge, and the Des Moines Public School districts, and through open enrollment, any child in the state can take advantage of this opportunity.
There is one big problem -Iowa law establishes March 1st as the deadline for parents to apply to open enroll their students in schools. Since the deadline has already passed for next fall, there are concerns sending students back to schools this fall if the virus is still spreading. Some fear vulnerable families will be up to the mercy of school boards to agree to allow these children to open enroll. Some school districts may agree to forgo the open enrollment dollars, others will not. Advocates say that even during a typical year, the open enrollment deadline is too early. They’re calling on Governor Reynolds in the legislature to modify the open enrollment date if not permanently, at least for the next school year.
“The open enrollment deadline passed about two weeks before the Governor declared a state of a health emergency. With so much uncertainty this fall, making an exception on the enrollment deadline this year seems like the right thing to do for kids and their parents,” said Jen Wubben, a parent of children in virtual schools.
Proponents say that children in these virtual schools have hardly missed a beat. Their teaching has continued through this crisis.
Steve Hoff, Head of the school at Clayton Ridge Iowa Virtual Academy, noted, “Remote learning is not something new for us. Our teachers are not just trained in remote learning, they are specialists in it, and we are proud of our state approved-curriculum that is tailored to engage students in an online environment. For families that need this option, we are ready and willing to meet their needs.
In a recent poll, nearly 50% of those surveyed said they were “Very Concerned” about their child being exposed to Coronavirus at school. That poll, conducted in April by EdChoice in collaboration with Morning Consult, also found that 69% of those survey were “Very Concerned or “Somewhat Concerned” about their child missing instruction time due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
It was announced Wednesday afternoon that the Iowa legislature would reconvene on June 3rd. When contacted by Iowa Field Report, several legislators expressed a willingness to consider a one-time waiver of the deadline. Still, they would not comment on the record, citing a fluid schedule and a condensed timeline after they return.