Des Moines School Board votes to apply for waiver to go online Nov. 16

If the waiver is granted, all grade levels would move to fully online learning for at least two weeks starting Nov. 16. That means high school students, …

Citing the high rate of coronavirus spread in Polk County, the Des Moines School Board Sunday evening voted to allow Superintendent Thomas Ahart to file a waiver asking permission from the state for all grades to transition to online learning starting Nov. 16.

Ahart said he would file the waiver immediately Sunday evening. The board will likely hear a response from the Department of Education within 24 to 48 hours.

The motion passed 6-1, with board member Teree Caldwell-Johnson voting against. If the waiver is granted, all grade levels would move to fully online learning for at least two weeks starting Nov. 16. That means high school students, who are slated to begin in-person hybrid learning Tuesday, could be in school for as short as four days before moving back online.

With his recommendation, Ahart said he was trying to “avoid having a disaster” as COVID-19 cases are expected to grow significantly through the week of Thanksgiving.

“What’s driving this recommendation isn’t a concern about a particular building, it’s looking at the steady increase over the last two weeks of positive cases in students and staff and a concurrent increase in students and staff being quarantined due to exposure and the rising conditions in the community,” he said.

Ahart said there is not a current end date for the move to fully online learning if the waiver is approved. The board will likely meet again if the waiver is granted to discuss applying for a second waiver if current COVID-19 conditions continue.

A second motion by board member Kalyn Cody to indefinitely delay the start of in-person instruction for high school students and transition pre-K through eighth grade to online learning starting Nov. 16 even if the waiver was not granted failed to pass by a vote of 4-3.