Statement on Court’s Denial of Injunction Request

Superintendent Thomas Ahart released the following statement in response to a denial by Polk County District Court for a temporary injunction so that Des Moines Public School could safely begin the school year in the midst of a pandemic through virtual learning:

“On our first day of school for 2020-21, a day when Central Iowa remains one of the nation’s top COVID-19 hotspots and yet another day that Polk County is no closer to meeting the metrics that would indicate we can safely return to in-person instruction, Des Moines Public Schools received the Court’s denial of our request for an injunction.

“We are disappointed in today’s ruling denying our request for a temporary injunction to allow DMPS to begin the year online. The School Board proceeded with online learning only after serious consideration of all options, due to the alarming rise of COVID-19 in our community. Local control has long been at the heart of school operations in our state. In these unprecedented times we need more flexibility, not less, and we believe that is what the legislature intended to provide us.

“Although the court did not issue the injunction based on its interpretation of Senate File 2310, it did agree that DMPS had demonstrated that irreparable harm will occur without the requested injunction. The court acknowledged that DMPS is faced with an impossible choice: resume on-site instruction without the ability to comply with CDC guidelines and risk serious harm to the health and safety of staff and students or continue online and suffer disastrous financial consequences. The court noted that DMPS ‘is a public school district who is diligently trying to protect its employees and students while advancing children learning.’

“The Des Moines School Board will hold a closed session tomorrow evening to discuss with legal counsel our next steps. I hope to have more information after that meeting to share about where we go from here as a school district.

“Until further notice, classroom instruction will continue online for most DMPS students. While this has not been made clear to the public, the credit earned through virtual learning does count for individual students, and schoolwork completed online is applied towards grades and attendance.

“I realize this is a stressful time for our students and families as well as our 5,000 employees. The school board, my team and I are actively working to resolve this challenge in a manner that will continue to both provide education and opportunities for the children of Des Moines and safety for all of us.”