In late May, when video began circulating of George Floyd trapped under the knee of a police officer, struggling to breathe, it was the latest reminder of America’s failure to address the racism and brutality that pervades U.S. policing. For those who train and educate law enforcement officials, Floyd’s death — along with the recent police killings of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other Black Americans — was also a moment of reckoning, prompting some of those educators to examine their role in preparing officers for a profession responsible for so much senseless violence. In Virginia, where community colleges enrolled some 2,200 students last year in programs designed to train law enforcement officials, school system administrators decided it was time to review their curricula for future officers. Across the country, in California, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the state’s community college system, called for a similar examination of police training. A few college police academies announced their own reviews.
Gusty winds blew corn husks through the school’s parking lot on November 16 at South Hamilton Schools. This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project. The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. It was another day of the staff trying to keep up with the daily reports of sickened students and faculty, making sure kids pumped hand sanitizer and wore face masks nearly all the time, properly social distanced during band practice and lunch periods, and pivoted from teaching in-person and virtual learners while taking extra time to help those struggling.
Even the lunchroom is different this year. Cafeteria tables limit seating.
Jewell, Iowa – At 3:20 p.m. on a Monday, a voice booms through the public address speakers at South Hamilton School. “Everybody mask up.” A reminder of how much changed this school year. The South Hamilton district — 700 pre-K through 12th-grade students from the rural towns of Ellsworth, Randall, Stanhope and Jewell in the center of Iowa — tackled challenges facing other rural schools since COVID-19 came to Iowa in March and shut down schools.
“You can’t handle the ‘what ifs,’ because there are too many of them,” said longtime activities director Todd Coy. This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project. The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
‘Generational shifting’: How a rural Iowa school district changed busing for costs, staffing, and students’ safety
Vicki and Matt Bruening live on a Floyd County acreage with six children ranging from a sophomore in high school to a fourth-grader. Like others in Iowa, the family makes a living in agribusiness: both Bruenings operate an agricultural repair business in New Hampton, and Matt farms with his uncle on family land nearby.
At home, the family raises goats and chickens, with the help of their kids. When COVID-19 shut down Iowa schools over the spring break season in March, farm life gave the Bruenings the benefit of staying busy — but as time progressed, the family was still concerned whether school doors would open in the fall.
“We were most worried about if they wouldn’t be able to go back at all,” Vicki Bruening said. “It’s been a different kind of school year so far, but it’s also been good to get them back in the classroom, back with their friends.”
Bruening drives her kids to school in the morning as a way to provide more time to get ready. In the afternoon while she’s at work, the family relies on school transportation from Charles City’s joint high school and middle school campus, and one of the district’s two elementary schools.
This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project.
Iowa counties with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection are home to large meat packing plants. Part of a collaborative reporting project called “Lesson Plans: Rural schools grapple with COVID-19” in partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit News and several member newsrooms.
Paige Marsh went through five interviews before getting a job offer from a national insurance company, headquartered in Des Moines, back in January. “I have been in touch with the company every month since I signed my offer letter,” Marsh, a senior business administration major at Wartburg College, said. “And then I just got the call about the company freezing all new hires until 2021.”
She will continue to search for work in the meantime. College students, like Marsh, who are ready to hit the job market, now find positions hard to find or internships have been postponed or canceled. The jump to the “real world” is typically full of anxiety and uncertainty for seniors — and this year is no different with COVID-19 unsettling the job market.
A virtually connected group of professionals, Keeping Educated Youth in Des Moines, hosted a webinar April 24. Included were tips for how seniors can go about obtaining a job in a pandemic.
Tips for seniors from the panel:
Network. Getting on LinkedIn and connecting with people who are in your preferred career path is a great start to getting into the industry. Expect hiring to return. Students should expect after the sharp decline in hires that there will be a sharp incline in hires when work restrictions are lifted.
Steve Cook walked into the locker room. The 24-year veteran head baseball coach for Coe College in Cedar Rapids sensed the tension in the air. He was about to tell his athletes their season was cancelled.
“Over 24 years, you’re always going to have a meeting at the end of the year. There’s always going to be a senior class and memories and emotions to work through, but this one was especially hard,” Cook said.
On March 12, college athletics got a jolt: NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement cancelling all winter and spring championships due to the coronavirus pandemic. Division III athletes and coaches across Iowa waited to see what would happen with the 2020 season, workouts and recruiting.
In the days following, the American Rivers Conferences (A-R-C), Midwest Conference and St.
University of Northern Iowa professor Anelia Dimitrova expected the coronavirus would cause a two-week spring break extension – not a swift end to campus life and the beginning of teaching online. She thought it was odd, she said, when one of her students noted in March that their last class before spring break could be their last meeting in person.
COVID-19 turned life upside-down for Iowa’s 100,000-plus full-time university and college students as a month ago classes moved online. Some struggle to care for loved ones with weakened immune systems, and others can’t find WiFi access to earn the semester’s credits. Still others pay their rent without their low-wage job or worry about an upcoming graduation and job search. “In some ways this virus is like 9/11, where it will impact society and how things are done because of it,” said Kealan Graham, 26, who is pursuing a master’s in elementary education and is home in Greater Des Moines. “I hope this helps people realize how important paid sick leave is, how important health care is, and how important every job is to the function of society.”
The new normal: Uncertainty, disruption and adapting.
Looking back, Jazsime Vanpelt wishes she could have done her freshman and sophomore years differently. Checking her grades multiple times a day, loading too many extracurriculars onto her schedule and unnecessary pressure to do well in school created stress and anxiety in and outside of the classroom. Jazsime Vanpelt, Iowa City High School student (Photo by Jhakyra Banister)
The pressure wasn’t from Vanpelt’s parents. She did it to herself, the Iowa City High School senior said. “I would like to freak out if my grades went down, even a little bit,” Vanpelt, 17, said.
Making good grades is but one of several pressures high school students interviewed for a new IowaWatch High School journalism project said.