By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ordered the state’s schools to be closed until April 30, including Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
This is an extension of a shutdown of schools, which began in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Iowa’s Department of Education issued COVID-19 guidance on April 2 that required all schools across the state to make a decision by April 10 about distance learning opportunities. They have the option to provide voluntary educational enrichment opportunities, to require educational services for credit, or to offer no continuous learning, according to the document issued by state officials.
In recent communication to principals and school boards, Kim Hermsen, superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese, explained that the third option was “not recommended” for archdiocesan schools. Many Catholic schools have been offering distance learning opportunities in some form since the closure.
Parishes and schools are being encouraged to apply for financial assistance available through the coronavirus relief legislation recently passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law. Loans are available through the “Paycheck Protection Program.”
“This loan can be granted for up to 2 and a half months’ worth of salary/benefits and if the organization keeps their employees or hires them back soon after layoffs — the loan can be converted to a grant,” wrote Hermsen.
Applications for student financial aid through the archdiocesan School Tuition Organization (STO) for the 2020-2021 school year are now being accepted. The round one deadline is April 15; the round two deadline is July 15.
Families are being encouraged to apply by April 15 if possible.
“Families in round 2 won’t be notified of their award until the second week of August,” wrote Hermsen. “Due to social distancing requirements, all group ‘help sessions’ have been postponed but families can schedule a ‘virtual’ help session by calling their local school office.”
For more information on financial aid available through the STO, visit https://ourfaithsto.org/.
Photo: A sign near the outside door of St. Mary School in Guttenberg in 2019.