West Des Moines Parents To Decide How Their Child is Taught Under COVID-19

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The West Des Moines school board approved the district’s recommendation Monday night to allow parents to decide whether to send their kid to school or learn online only.

Six of the seven board members voted in favor. Dr. Jennifer Ulie-Wells did not vote.

“Having the choice for each family to make individually is a really great plan,” said Chrissy Parkinson, who has four children within West Des Moines Community Schools. “I don’t think there is any one way that they will be able to do that is going to make everybody happy.”

Lizzie Gillman’s two children will be learning online this fall because of an immune issue within the family. “It would put us in danger if we do go back to school. So, considering every family is different, to be able to have that option is really great,” Gillman said.

In a survey sent out to parents of the 9,000 students within the district, over 5,400 adults responded. The data shows 47.5% wanted their child back in school full time, while 33% wanted a hybrid of online and in the classroom. Just 18% preferred online only. Parkinson said, “Every family is different. If you go across the street and ask our neighbors, you may get something different because their family life is a lot different than ours.”

Over 900 teachers responded to a similar survey where they were asked how many of the options made them comfortable. Hybrid option number two, giving parents the choice, received just 29%. Parkinson said, “I worry for the teachers and how they are going to handle this. We have really good teachers in West Des Moines and we want to keep them.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the district says it can fit a maximum of 28 students on each bus. Capacity of the buses can hold over 80. Kids will be required to wear a mask on all buses or face potential suspension of riding privileges. Gillman said, “We know this is going to be tough. We are all going to be in this together and just all going to have to make it work.”

With heightened safety procedures, face coverings will be encouraged for students in school and required for all employees. Attendance will be taken for both online and in classroom students. Parkinson said, “It is very important they move back into a more structured learning environment.”

Breakfast and lunch will be done in the classroom. The district can still change plans in the event of any outbreaks, but parents must make their decision by July 31. Students choosing online learning will have resources available for food and mental health.