By Newsweek |

Iowa Schools Barred From Hybrid Schedule, Online Only Classes Unless They Make Up Days

Iowa schools are barred by law from a hybrid schedule or moving to online classes only unless they make up the days amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

However, last year schools in the state were able to have hybrid schedules and online classes. Meanwhile, Iowa's COVID-19 case average is roughly 1,200 infections a week with around a quarter of cases detected in individuals age 17 and under as about 500,000 students began school in recent days.

In addition, Iowa state law prevents schools from imposing mask mandates. Roughly 5 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are 17 and under in Iowa as of Wednesday.

Iowa's Newton school district said 29 children and eight staff members were missing from its elementary school because of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Still, the district will continue with its in-person classes.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Students Arrive At School

A state law has barred Iowa schools from hybrid schedules and online only classes. In this photo, Carolyn Jackson, assistant principal of Long Branch Elementary School, greets students as they walk off the school bus on August 30, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A group of parents of disabled students filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to strike down Iowa's law banning schools from requiring masks, arguing it endangers their health and denies equal access to education.

The lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and disability rights organizations, adds to the legal pressure facing the law as virus cases and hospitalizations climb in Iowa to their highest levels since last winter.

The U.S. Department of Education launched investigations this week into whether the Iowa law and similar measures in four other Republican-led states illegally discriminate against students with disabilities or health conditions.

A Council Bluffs mother of twin boys has filed a state lawsuit challenging the measure, and a judge has scheduled a hearing next week on whether to grant a temporary injunction blocking its enforcement.

The lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Des Moines involves children who are too young to be vaccinated and have disabilities that make them susceptible to potentially severe COVID-19 cases, including a rare organ disorder, cerebral palsy and asthma.

Their parents argue the law effectively excludes them from in-person learning in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Read more

VT District Thought to Be Without Mask Mandate Had Board Vote Against It Ron DeSantis Gets Fundraising Boost Amid Declining Approval Rating DeSantis Appeals Mask Mandate Ruling, Says His Job is to 'Protect' Freedom ICU Nurse on Delta Surge: 'It's a Lot of Death, and It's the New Normal'

"Prohibiting schools from taking reasonable steps to protect the health of their students forces parents to make an impossible choice: their child's education or their child's health," said Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU's Disability Rights Program, which has filed a similar lawsuit in South Carolina.

The lawsuit names Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo and 11 school districts as defendants, including those in Des Moines, Davenport, Ankeny, Waterloo and Iowa City. It seeks a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law while the case proceeds.

At a news conference Thursday, Reynolds defended the law and said the state's rising number of cases was no cause for panic. She said "the risk of serious illness among children is minimal" and called their low rate of hospitalization encouraging.

Asked what she would tell parents who are concerned about unvaccinated children with chronic health conditions feeling unsafe in classrooms, Reynolds noted they can enroll in online-only options instead. She said she has heard from more parents of children who have had "severe" reactions to masks and believe they impede their learning.

"Parents understand and know the health of their children. They are the best person to decide that course of action for their children," she said.

Under the law passed on the final day of the legislative session in May, school boards and superintendents cannot require students and employees to wear masks. Mask wearing must be optional, and anecdotal reports suggest it is limited in many schools.

The law conflicts with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends universal mask wearing for students and teachers in the classroom. The CDC issued the guidance in light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

Clusters of infections involving children and educators, and potential exposure among their colleagues, are already disrupting some schools.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has been named in a suit attempting to overturn the state's law prohibiting schools from issuing mask mandates. Here, Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, August 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo