VAN METER, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Friday she would override local school districts and require students to spend at least half of their education time in classrooms despite concerns the move could endanger children and teachers as the number of coronavirus cases increase in the state.Reynolds’ decision will invalidate plans implemented by some districts including Des Moines, the state’s largest school system, to limit in-person classes to one day a week for most students with online learning on other days. The governor’s actions are in line with the fervent recommendations of President Donald Trump, who has said it’s essential students return to classrooms despite surging numbers of virus cases in much of the country.“One of the most important milestones in our recovery effort is getting Iowa students back to school,”Reynolds said at a news conference. “And while we all know this school year will be different than ever before, its critical that we prioritize bringing Iowa’s children back to the classroom safely and responsibly.”Reynolds said districts could seek waivers from the 50% requirement to the state Education Department, which would consider making exceptions if there are surging local numbers of virus cases. There will be no change in the Education Department’s recommendation that districts not require that students and teachers wear masks in school, Reynolds said.The governor issued her order a little more than a month before schools are expected to resume and amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases. In the last 24 hours, Iowa had 879 new confirmed coronavirus cases and five more deaths, according to state statistics reported Friday.
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