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'Back to school doesn't mean back to normal': State releases additional guidance for Return to Learn plans

In-person classes are the "presumed method of instruction," according to Iowa law.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Click the video above to watch the full press conference from Thursday, July 30

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference Thursday to discuss the state's latest "Return to Learn" guidance.

Earlier this month, Reynolds sign a proclamation that schools must prioritize in-person learning while allowing individual districts to apply for waivers to implement more remote learning.

A law passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic requires schools to primarily teach core subjects in person unless a proclamation is signed.

"Any return-to-learn plan submitted by a school district or accredited nonpublic school must contain provisions for in-person instruction and provide that in-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction," the law reads.

The Iowa Department of Education defines "primarily" to mean more than 50%, meaning schools are required to have more than 50% of their core instruction in-person this fall unless the state grants them a waiver.

Four levels of county-level data monitoring over a 14-day span were announced as guidance for school districts:

  • 0-14% positivity rate — On-site learning and/or hybrid learning
  • 15-20% positivity rate — Hybrid learning and/or temporary remote learning for an entire building or district for 14 days
  • 20% and above positivity rate — All temporary, remote learning

A 15-20% county positivity rate would also require a 10% student absentee rate for districts to move to hybrid or remote learning.

"Back to school doesn't mean back to normal," Reynolds said Thursday.

WATCH: Infectious disease specialist reacts to latest Iowa school guidance

The Iowa State Education Association responded to the latest developments, calling the 15% positivity rate requirement for a school district to move to remote learning "outlandish."

"Anything above 6%, districts should be able to make the decisions that are appropriate," ISEA President Mike Beranek told Local 5. "And if that means fully online continuous learning, then that should be allowed. We don't feel districts should have to wait until that infection rate reaches a much higher level." 

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WATCH: Full press conference for July 30, 2020