IowaWatch joins national collaboration on rural education during COVID-19

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Krista Johnson/IowaWatch

A school bus ready to run a route in Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism – IowaWatch.org has been selected as a partner to report on how COVID-19 is changing and challenging rural school districts, the Institute for Nonprofit News reported.

It is IowaWatch’s third reporting collaboration in the past year.

“Our goal is to look at the smaller districts that have fewer resources and how they are meeting the challenges of learning during a global pandemic,” said Executive Director Suzanne Behnke.

The Walton Family Foundation is providing a grant that will allow IowaWatch and other collaboration members, El Paso Matters, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico In-Depth, Scalawag, Underscore Media and Wisconsin Watch, to report and write on rural schools in their respective states during the 2020-2021 school year.

The project will produce three reports by IowaWatch and by each member over the six months of the grant, at the start of the school year, toward the middle of the fall and a last installment toward the end of 2020. Collaboration members will publish on their own news web sites or channels with INN providing distribution and project management as well.

The project builds on several reporting collaborations INN has done examining challenges facing rural America, including “Seeking a Cure,” which looked at the crisis facing rural hospitals, and “Slammed,” examining how COVID-19 is putting increased pressure on the rural healthcare system, according to a release from INN.

IowaWatch led “Seeking the Cure” and is participating in “Slammed.” “These kinds of reporting projects deal with major issues facing Iowans but also people in other states, so why not explore the wider picture?” IowaWatch board member Lyle Muller, a reporter and editor in those two previous projects, said.

“These collaborations harness the reporting power of strong and vibrant nonprofit news outlets,” Behnke said. “We are stronger together reporting on these topics that matter not just in rural Iowa, but rural America.”

IowaWatch is a nonpartisan nonprofit news organization, based out of Urbandale, Iowa. It began in 2010.