COVID-19 puts legislators, schools in uncharted territory

Highland Highlights

By Mike Jorgensen
Posted 7/29/20

The Iowa Legislature wrapped up their suspended session in June.    

To say that the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year and the start of the 2020-21 school year presented new …

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COVID-19 puts legislators, schools in uncharted territory

Highland Highlights

Posted

The Iowa Legislature wrapped up their suspended session in June.    

To say that the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year and the start of the 2020-21 school year presented new complications and problems unlike schools and lawmakers have ever seen before, would be an understatement. 

The following include some of the legislated highlights that will affect the schools in the upcoming year.

• Telehealth in Schools: Expands the opportunities for students to access mental health services with a licensed professional mental health provider through electronic means.

• Iowa Learning Online: Expands upon the ability of districts to use online learning in order to meet accreditation standards. This is especially critical in the many hard to find teachers areas of curriculum.

• Dyslexia Provisions: Requires the State Board of Education and Board of Educational Examiners to adopt rules by July 1, 2021, to develop an advanced Dyslexia Specialist Endorsement. Directs the department to have dedicated Dyslexia Consultants by July 1, 2024. Requires AEA Boards to dedicate at least one FTE to be a Dyslexia Specialist.

• Iowa 529 Plans: Permits the use of Iowa 529 plan funds for certain beneficiaries to attend out-of-state elementary and secondary schools.

• Future Ready Iowa: Designed to strengthen Iowa’s workplace readiness with five divisions, 1. Future Ready Iowa Apprenticeship Development Program; 2. Iowa Child Care Challenge Fund; 3. Computer Science Instruction; 4. Future Ready Iowa Skilled Workforce Last Dollar Scholarship fund; and 5. Senior Year Plus Program and Post-secondary Enrollment Options

COVID-19 created scenarios that were never considered before and has resulted in new rules and regulations that were sent to the governor’s office.

So, what will 2020-2021 bring about? How will schools proceed? 

What is probably the most difficult for everyone is that there is not a right or wrong answer, and there won’t be a single answer. 

The arguments over whether the economy should take precedence or health and safety factors should take precedence has no clear-cut answer. I have heard viable arguments on both sides of the issue. 

As a result, a variety of models have been put into place state-by-state in opening up. 

The same will be true with models in returning to school.   

While pressure for face-to-face opening is being threatened in the form of a mandate by some governmental leaders, across the country, we still will see different models of opening including 100% online, hybrid learning and 100% return to the classroom.    

This is uncharted territory. I do believe that the leadership in every school district, Highland included, is to do what is best for their students.

It will not easy. There will not be 100% consensus, and the parents need to be supportive of their boards and administration.

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