As Des Moines Public Schools continues to develop and refine details of our Return to Learn plan for the 2020-21 school year, we are committed to sharing information important to students and families as soon as possible. One way is this list of frequently asked questions. Please be sure to check back from time to time as we respond to new questions and provide additional information to previous answers. This FAQ is organized according to topic; simply click the category to open a list of questions and answers.

General Questions

Can I change the choices I made during online registration?
Yes. If you would like to change either the learning model (virtual or hybrid) or the K-8 hybrid cohort requested when you completed online registration, please first contact your school. The school will “unsubmit” your registration.  Then, you can log into your Infinite Campus parent portal, and access registration via the same path you completed registration the first time.  All of your registration responses will be saved. Edit the Return to Learn options and click submit.  Please note that any changes need to be made by July 31 so that DMPS can complete staffing and scheduling plans for the start of the new school year.

Who will decide if my child is going to attend school virtually?
This will be up to each family for each of their children.  During online registration (July 13-31), parents/guardians will select whether they would like their student(s) to enrolled in fulltime virtual school or hybrid school. 

What does “virtual learning” mean?
For the purpose of this plan, “virtual learning” means instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations all of the time. Methods could include on-line instruction, printed instructional materials, phone calls, emails, text reminders, video conferencing and/or other means of communication.  If enrolled in virtual school, your student will engage in all of their learning in this manner, with coursework overseen and provided by certified DMPS staff.       

How will virtual learning be different between this past spring and this coming fall?
Virtual learning this fall will be required, which means that there will be curriculum that your student will need to complete in order to get credit for their coursework.  The work will be self-paced, so students will be able to work when they choose – grade and credit determination will be based on completion of modules and providing evidence (homework, assignments, etc.) that they have mastered the associated skills.  DMPS teachers will oversee these classes and provide support for students as needed.

Will “virtual learning” include live instruction?
Yes.  While virtual learning will be largely self-paced, there will be scheduled times as well as additional opportunities for students to connect with teachers in one on one and group settings to get additional support around the content areas.

What will virtual days look like for hybrid model students?
More details regarding both learning models, with expectations and overviews for students, will be available soon.

If I choose virtual learning, will my student receive instruction from a teacher at our assigned building?
If you select virtual, you student will receive instruction from a grade-level teacher dedicated to virtual learning, not necessarily a teacher associated with your attendance area school.

Who will decide if my child is going to attend school virtually?
This will be up to each family for each of their children.  During online registration (July 13 – 31), parents/guardians will select whether they would like their student(s) to enrolled in full-time virtual school or hybrid school.  This decision can be made for each child individually.

Can I change my mind on the instructional model (virtual or hybrid) for my student during the school year?
Once you decide about your child’s enrollment, you will not be able to change their instructional model until the semester change (around the middle of January).

I hear course offerings may be reduced – when will I know what will be offered for my students?
Course offering determinations will be made by August 1st.  DMPS will continue to meet all State requirements for course offerings, which include English, Math, Science, Social Sciences, the Arts, Career and Technical Education, and Physical Education.   

Will my student still be considered enrolled in their current school if they select full-time virtual?

How long is DMPS preparing to be in the hybrid or virtual model?
We are planning right now through first semester.   Later in the fall, additional considerations will be made based on ongoing changes in case numbers and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the percent of families choosing virtual versus hybrid is different than what the district expects, is there a possibility that we will not get the option that we have chosen?
The district’s intention is that all requests for virtual or hybrid will be fully honored.

Will my student still be able to participate in activities at their school of enrollment if we select the virtual option?
Yes, students may participate in activities through their home school.

When will we hear more from our child’s school?
Schools will start communicating directly with families in the next few weeks, as the online registration progresses.

What additional supports will be available for gifted and talented students?

The DMPS Gifted and Talented Consultants will be supporting students with enrichment opportunities in core and other areas through synchronous meetings and asynchronous online options. More details to come.

Will the district be balancing “days off” for the cohorts, since Monday are often days that are off?
Yes, the district is working on a plan for the semester long schedule to balance days off across cohorts.

When is the first day of school?
The 2020-21 school calendar begins August 26.  Because this is a Wednesday, it will be a virtual day for all students, no matter their cohort or selection of virtual or hybrid model.  For hybrid school students, your child’s first in person day of school will depend on their cohort, as follows:

Grades K-8

    • Cohort B: Thursday, August 27
    • Cohort A: Monday, August 31

Grade 9

    • Home high school: Friday, August 28
    • Central Campus: Thursday, August 27

Grade 10

    • Home high school: Thursday, August 27
    • Central Campus: Friday, August 28

Grade 11

    • Home high school: Tuesday, September 1
    • Central Campus: Monday, August 31

 Grade 12

    • Home high school: Monday, August 31
    • Central Campus: Tuesday, September 1

What are school hours for in-person days under the hybrid model?
School hours on in-person days for students under the hybrid learning model will be the same as the past two years. School hours are:

  • High Schools: 8:25 AM – 3:25 PM
  • Middle Schools (including Cowles and Ruby Van Meter): 8:30 AM – 3:25 PM
  • Elementary School: 7:45 AM – 2:40 PM

Childcare/Metro Kids

I need care for my child 5 days a week, will the district be providing childcare on virtual learnings days?
The district is beginning the work to partner with community providers and community partners to determine how we can meet the needs of all families and staff.  More information will be available as soon as possible.   

 Will MetroKids be available for wrap around care?
DMPS is working to ensure that as many services are available as possible.  More information will be provided as soon as we are able to confirm the logistics of what additional programming will be available.  

I need my high school student to care for my elementary student, but their days assigned for in-person instruction are different.  Can students switch cohorts?
Every possible accommodation will be made to allow students in the same household to be in similar cohort schedules.  Parents/guardians will be provided the opportunity to request a change to their student’s cohort during the online registration process.  

Elementary/Middle School

What does “hybrid school” mean for elementary and middle school students?
Your student will go to classes at their school building two days a week, either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.  Wednesday and the alternate two days, students will engage in online learning provided by DMPS teachers The district is working to ensure that students who live together will be in the same cohort.

How large will my child’s class be?
We are projecting the K-8 classes will be around 12 students.  More information will be available after online registration is complete.  

Can I change my K-8 student’s cohort for the hybrid model?
Yes.  During online registration, you will be given the option to change your assigned cohort.

Will my K-8 students be in the same cohort even if they don’t attend the same school?
Yes.  K-8 students in the same household in Infinite Campus will be automatically be placed in the same cohort, regardless of whether they attend the same school.

High School/Central Campus/Central Academy

What does “hybrid school” mean for high school students?
High school students will attend their home school one day a week, in a cohort with their grade level.  They will engage in online learning the other days of the week.  If students are taking classes at Central Academy, those classes will be entirely virtual.  For students are taking classes at Central Campus, those classes will meet on alternate days of the week, also in grade level cohorts, as needed  

What does the “4×4” for high school terms mean?
Students will enroll in 3-4 classes for each nine-week term.  The first term will run from the beginning of the school year to mid-October.  Then the students will enroll in a new set of 3-4 classes for the second term for first semester.  This means students will be in each class for longer each day and cover the course material for the whole semester in the nine-week term.  For example, if a student enrolls in Algebra 1, semester 1 for the first term, by midOctober they will have completed the course requirements for all of Algebra 1, semester 1.  If they have passed the course, they will be eligible to take Algebra 1, semester 2, beginning in the third term of the year (in January).  

How will my high school student select classes for each term?
Student schedules for 2020-2021 will be based on the classes the students chose during the course request process.  This course request data from last spring was factored into the decisions about which classes needed priority for development in the hybrid and virtual models.    

What if a class my student selected isn’t available?
If a student schedule is not complete based on course requests, counselors will be completing schedules and reaching out students before school starts.

Will Central Academy’s online classes be considered “Virtual Academy”?
No, Central Academy courses are separate and taught entirely Central Academy teachers.

My student may be graduating early, who do I contact if I have questions about my students schedule?
Please contact your student’s high school administration or counseling staff to help with that issue.

Can my student have virtual instruction for their home high school and still take Central Campus classes?
Yes, when you select during online registration “virtual school”, it will only apply to their home high school.  Central Campus classes will be offered fully online unless they have a lab component.  If the student is enrolled in Central Campus class that has a lab component and they select the “virtual school” option, Central Campus will follow up with them to determine if they want to remain enrolled in the course.

How will I know if my student’s Central Campus class has a lab component and they need to attend in person at Central Campus?
Central Campus is working to complete an updated course information catalog, which will indicate which courses will be available entirely online and which courses will have an in person lab component.  This document should be available early in the week of July 13, and will be linked here when complete.


Will my student(s) have access to school provided meals on days they’re not in school?
Yes. All students will have the opportunity to obtain meals for the days they are not in school, either at a meal site or their attendance area school. More details will be shared prior to the start of school.

Preschool/Early Childhood Education

What is the plan for preschool?
Early Childhood programs are preparing for virtual learning and will make decisions on a hybrid model based on enrollment numbers. Low enrollment may allow us to safely distance students and staff and bring all students back four days per week. Full enrollment would require a hybrid plan similar to K-8.  Final decisions regarding the plan will be made at the end of Online Registration, when we know full enrollment numbers. 

If preschool switches to hybrid enrollment, will that effect community partner sites as well?
Each partner site is creating their own plan with guidance and support from DMPS.  Please contact your student’s  enrollment site for more information.

Will there be both full and half day options for preschool?
Yes, there will be half day, full day, as well as virtual options for preschool.

What will be the first day of school for preschool?
The first day of preschool classes will be September 10.  Home visits will be completed virtually before that date.


What safety precautions are being taken by DMPS?
All students and staff will be required to wear masks unless they meet health exception qualifications set by the district.  These qualifications are still being set, and more information on the process for requesting an exception and the parameters for exception will be available soon. All buildings will be sanitized on Wednesdays, each week and there will be daily sanitizing protocols. (Click here for an article and video on helping children understand the importance of wearing face masks.)

Will my student be provided a face covering?
DMPS encourages families to provide cloth face coverings for their students as they are able but will provide face coverings as needed to ensure that students and staff are able to safely be in buildings.  

What if I don’t want my student to wear a face covering?
All staff and students will be required to wear face coverings in school buildings.  If you do not want your student to wear a face covering, the full-time virtual option may be the best for you.   

What happens if there is an outbreak at my school, or somewhere else in the district?
Superintendent Ahart is working with local public health officials to set parameters for when a school building will need to pivot to full-time virtual schooling.   

Will I know if there’s been a case of COVID-19 in my child’s building/classroom?
DMPS is working on the communication protocols for how and when families will be informed of cases of COVID-19.  More information will be available soon.    

Special Education

My child receives Special Education supports.  What additional information do I need?
DMPS will be meeting the requirements of all IEPs in accordance with federal mandates.  IEP teams will ascertain individual needs and determine if the IEP should be amended or rewritten to reflect changes to services and supports, which will include a fully virtual learning plan that can be implemented at any time, if needed.  Keep an eye out for communication with more information.

Sports and Activities

Will DMPS students be able to compete in sports this Fall? What about performing arts or other clubs and organizations?
Student activities, from arts to athletics and more, are an important part of the educational experience for thousands of students at Des Moines Public Schools. As the Return to Learn plan for the 2020-21 school year continues to be developed, student activities are an important factor being considered.

At this point in time, the following is the status for high school activities:

  • While DMPS hopes that Fall sports can play, we are reviewing guidance and information from the high school boys athletic association and girls athletic union in addition to public health officials before making a final decision.
  • DMPS will offer marching band as a voluntary activity at all 5 comprehensive high schools. This will be an optional activity for current band students and will not effect their course grade. Students should click this link  for more information and to indicate their interest by Wednesday, July 29. Students will receive more information directly from their band director.
  • DMPS will offer music and theatre activities outside of the school day when classes resume. These activities will be voluntary and have no effect on the students course grade. Teachers will communicate the options and participation parameters with them once school begins.
  • DMPS will NOT offer show choir during the school day or as an after school activity at any of our buildings during the 20-21 school year. It has been determined that we would be unable to maintain safety measures to meet the expectations of this activity.
  • DMPS plans to continue other after school programs and clubs. Whether those will be held in-person or online will be determined and announced at a later date.
  • As with sports, music and theatre activities as well as after school programs and clubs may be suspended or canceled due to COVID-19 cases in the programs.

Please be aware that all student activities are subject to change as may be required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology Access

Will my child have access to/ support for technology?
During online registration, you will have the opportunity to request support for internet access.  If you have additional issues, please contact The DMPS Call Center at 515-242-8221.   

Will students keep the computers that they picked up last spring?
Generally, yes.  Some older computers may need to be switched out. Your home school will be contacting you if the device you picked up last spring needs to be updated.

If I have a kindergarten aged child and would prefer a laptop rather than a tablet for them, is that an option?
No, we can only support one device type per grade level.

Will my student be using their own device?
No.  The district is providing devices to ALL students in order to ensure that the district can provide technical support.


How will my student get to school?
If your children are eligible for a bus route, bussing will be available to you.  However, it is not possible to fully social distance on busses.  In order to better support social distancing, students may be assigned seats on busses.  Busses will also be cleaned between each route.  

What about DART buses?
DMPS staff are working with DART to determine what protocols will be necessary to keep students and drivers safe, while getting students to school.  

My student receives transportation from an outside agency, will that still be allowed?
DMPS is still determining the policies and procedures regarding outside agencies and programs.  More information will be available as soon as possible.  

Questions for Students/Families to Consider in Selecting a Learning Model

  • How will your family be impacted if you select the hybrid model for your student(s) and their school(s) need to close due to a COVID19 outbreak? 
  • Are you comfortable sending your child to school where they will need to wear a cloth face covering?
  • Does your child have a conducive place to work at home?  

Pending Questions

The following questions have been submitted via our web site or our virtual informational sessions, and will be addressed as additional details of the Return to Learn plan are worked out:

  • If a child needs to stay home sick in the hybrid model, will they be able to join remotely?

  • Will students be able to stay in full virtual if schools fully reopen?

  • How much time will students be expected to spend on coursework when they are not in person?

  • What can families and parents do to support DMPS?

  • Will middle school/high school students have passing periods?

  • What will specific classes (art, band, choir, PE) look like this fall?

  • What will mental health services look like this fall?

  • What will fall sports look like (football, wrestling, etc)?

  • What kind of cleaning products will be used in the sanitizing process?

  • What will the special programs (Ruby Van Meter, Orchard Place) look like?

  • What will hybrid students schooling look like if it goes full virtual?

  • Will there be periodic COVID testing for students and/or staff?

  • In the hybrid model, will students need to bring their district issued devices with them to school for in person days?