Muscatine County schools ordered to remain closed

Students across the state will not return to school before the end of the academic year. However, all districts will continue to provide online learning opportunities. (File photo)

MUSCATINE, Iowa-At her daily COVID-19 briefing, Governor Kim Reynolds announced that all schools across the state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. “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,” announced Reynolds. 

Though students will not return to their physical classrooms for the remainder of the school year, all districts in Muscatine County will continue to provide the voluntary educational enrichment they began online in April through the end of the regular school year. 

To ease the return to school for the 2020-2021 school year, Reynolds waived all time requirements for students, so long as their school provides voluntary or required educational opportunities online. Each district must create a Return to Learn Plan and present it to the Iowa Department of Education before July 1 explaining how they will help fill gaps in student learning caused by the closures. Reynolds will also allow the next school year to begin before Aug. 23 if districts choose to, allowing them to shorten the period students spend outside of school. 

Muscatine Community School District Superintendent Jerry Riibe, in a statement to the public, affirmed that the Governor made a wise choice and outlined several steps his district plans to take to benefit students: “I know this was a difficult decision for her to make and a difficult decision for school staff, students, and parents to here. I believe it was the right decision to make.” 

Riibe asserted that the COVID-19 closures will not prevent seniors from graduating or younger children from progressing to the next grade: “I want to assure all parents that no student will be retained or failed due to the COVID-19 closure. Everything will be done to ensure that students are in a position to move forward at the start of the 2020-21 school year.”

In the weeks ahead, Muscatine Community School District will determine how they will assign final grades for this school year as well as what additional supports it will offer students to help them make up for lost classroom time. Riibe indicated the district will explore the options for online summer enrichment and adjusting the school calendar to begin earlier, though they have not made final decisions on either option. As restrictions on social distancing relax, the district will also look into distributing technology to elementary students, as they do not have one to one access to technology the way secondary students do. 

Overall, Riibe sought to assure the community that the district will work through this crisis and help student succeed in the future, “I pledge the district will be transparent in our planning to overcome challenges,” he concluded.