State green-lights summer activities for Iowa schools

Thursday, May 21, 2020
Okoboji's Tyler Adams pitched the Pioneers to a shutout victory in June of last year.
File photo by Matt Heinrichs

Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo on Thursday announced the guidelines that will be in place for Iowa schools to resume voluntary summer activities.

The director's update came on the heels of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' Wednesday proclamation allowing high school baseball and softball to resume activities for a shortened season at the start of June.

Lebo said the department will allow school-sponsored activities like summer school, academic enrichment programs and activity-based camps like robotics camp or drama camp to begin June 1 as well. She said districts may continue to provide online learning and other distance-based models if they so choose, but the decision is up to each local district. She encouraged administrators to heed local health officials to gauge COVID-19 related risks for their specific communities.

"It is important to note that this guidance is intended to serve as a starting point for districts and nonpublic schools as we take our first steps to open for students," Lebo said. "It is also important to note these guidelines are specific to moments in time as we transition through phases of reopening based on virus activity."

If resuming voluntary in-person activities this summer, Iowa schools are expected to screen staff and students upon arrival, teach and reinforce proper hand washing, limit the size of groups to allow for distancing between individuals, limit mixing of groups and establish cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Lebo went on to say more decisions are expected closer to July 1.

The governor said her April 17 decision to close Iowa's schools for the remainder of the regular academic year was one of the most difficult to make since the state's first case of the novel coronavirus in mid-March. The governor has recently been lifting weeks-long business restrictions put in place to stem the potential spread of the virus.

"Things aren't exactly as they were, but it feels familiar, and that's a welcome change," Reynolds said. "The reality is things will need to be different for awhile. COVID-19 can't be eliminated, we can't prevent people from getting it but it can be managed if we all continue to take perennial responsibility and do the right things to protect our health and the health of others."

The governor said criteria for the state's Test Iowa program have once again been broadened, and she said any individual who feels they should be tested may schedule an appointment through the program's website. She said the new criteria should be effective by the end of Thursday.

"This is especially important as more Iowans are returning to work," Reynolds said.

Wednesday marked an all-time high for testing, according to the governor, with 4,636 individuals tested 364 short of the state's maximum testing capacity. The state had just shy of 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 following Thursday's press conference. The rolling tally said 8,574 people had recovered from the virus, while a total of 404 people had died, making for a little less than 7,000 active cases in Iowa.

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