Statement from Superintendent on End of the School Year

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Superintendent Tom Ahart is working on plans to incorporate online and distance learning to end the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a virtual meeting today of the Des Moines School Board, Superintendent Thomas Ahart shared his intention that in-person classes would not resume during the 2019-20 school year, and that distance learning would be implemented. Following this afternoon’s announcement by Governor Reynolds that recommends schools remain closed through the end of April, Dr. Ahart issued the following statement:

“On any given school day, 40,000 people – students, teachers, staff, parents and volunteers – pass through the doors of public schools in Des Moines. That is a significant number in our city. I believe that re-opening our school doors before the COVID-19 pandemic may have even reached its peak in Polk County is not in the best interest of the health and well-being of this community.
“Earlier this week I directed our leadership team at DMPS to accelerate work on a plan to transition to distance learning for the remainder of this school year. That work includes addressing issues such as equity and accessibility, to make sure all students are able to participate in a meaningful way, one that advances their learning while mitigating the risk to public health. In addition, over the past several days, many of our teachers have already been working on best practices for online education and how their classes can be temporarily taught from afar. I intend to have this plan ready early next week.
“As Superintendent, I do not believe it is fair for our students, staff and families to be expected to operate in short increments of time with little certainty. Additionally, unless we make a wholesale commitment to the very heavy lift required to connect and equip 33,000 students, many of whom do not have home access to the internet or a personal computer, we will not be able to meaningfully serve our students. Let’s make a plan now to finish this school year, which is unlike any year we have ever experienced, in a way that is safe for our community AND serves the academic needs of our students. When it comes to the health and safety of students, K-12 public schools should expect no less than Iowa’s public universities; hundreds and thousands of people gathering in our schools near the projected height of this pandemic does not serve that purpose.”