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Return To Learn: The Future Of Schools Post COVID-19

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Students, pre COVID-19, sit shoulder-to-shuolder in a classroom.

Students around the world experienced an abrupt, anticlimactic ending to their academic year. Although students are now officially on summer break, administrators and school leaders are actively creating plans for how to safely bring students back to the classroom in the fall. 

Today's episode of Talk of Iowa begins with Dave Anderson, an Iowan living in Durham, England, whose children have already returned to the classroom. Although his community is said to only have "nine active [COVID-19] cases," when schools opened, only 19 of his sons' 40 classmates decided to come back. 

Dr. Rosanna Rosa, infectious disease specialist at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, explains that even though youth may be asymptomatic, they go home to parents and guardians, many of whom are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of the disease. Teachers in Iowa, many of whom have underlying conditions, also called into the show to express their concerns about interacting with hundreds of potentially asymptomatic kids.

Schools in Iowa are currently evaluating three options for the fall, according to Sandy Byard, health services facilitator for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The plans, which are recommended by the Iowa Department of Education, are the following:

  • Continuous learning
  • Hybrid learning
  • On-site delivery

However, not all students have access to high-speed internet, a device or a quiet place to learn at home — otherwise known as the "digital divide." Clark Wicks, superintendent of the Perry Community School District, says his district is working hard to create the safest environment possible while providing all students with equitable access to education. To address the digital divide, Perry says that every student will have a computer. "Just last week we purchased another $84,00 worth of computers for kindergarten and 1st grade," he says. "Everyone's hands are on deck to make this work." 
Guests:

  • Dave Anderson, former political scientist at ISU and current Durham, England resident
  • Dr. Rosanna Rosa, infectious disease specialist at UnityPoint Health — Des Moines
  • Sandy Byard, health services facilitator for the Cedar Rapids Community School District
  • Clark Wicks, superintendent of the Perry Community School District
  • Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association
Matthew is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa