Downtown Tamarack Discovery School opens and requires masks

The Tamarack Discovery School, which opened on Monday, may require all students to wear masks because of its accreditation status, despite recent legislation from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

Grace smith

The Tamarak Discovery School is pictured on Monday, August 16, 2021 in downtown Iowa City. The private school will host kindergarten through sixth grade and open this week. (Grace Smith / The Iowan Daily)


The founders of Tamarack Discovery School and former public school educators will need masks and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 recommendations for students this fall.

K-6 School opened in downtown Iowa City on Monday. Although operating on the same schedule as the Iowa City Community School District, the school will not seek district accreditation, according to Tamarack executive director Katie Christiansen.

Christiansen, who served in public education for 19 years, said students at the school enroll in one of Iowa’s education options for home schooling – competent private education .

“Because we are not accredited, we are not a public school, so we are considered outside these limits,” Christiansen said. “I’ve always wanted to have an impact on the appearance of our public schools, and I know our teachers do an amazing job, but there are just a lot of limits to what they can do. “

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill to ban mask warrants in K-12 schools in May, despite recommendations from the CDC, as previously reported by The Iowan Daily.

Christiansen said the school was launched last June in Coralville in a smaller location. She said the school had no student cases of COVID-19 last year.

The downtown building was once the National Co + op Grocers on South Linn Street. Christiansen said the building’s three classrooms will have 12 to 16 students per room to allow for social distancing.

“We also maintain the size of our classes because we really believe that educators need to have very strong relationships with their students and get to know them well in order to provide truly personalized instruction,” she said.

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Middle school teacher Becky Jensen said many students were anxious about COVID-19 in the past school year.

“In April of last year I taught the older kids, and they all brought a little stuffed animal from the house, which was so cute,” she said. “And that was totally understandable, but we talked about it and we were open about it.”

A classroom inside the Tamarak Discovery School is pictured on Monday, August 16, 2021 in downtown Iowa City. This private school will welcome kindergarten to grade six and will open this week. (Grace Smith)

The school plans to use professionals from the County and the University of Iowa to teach lessons about their professions and emphasize indoor and outdoor learning experiences, Christiansen said.

“COVID is really going to restrict our movements this year, but we certainly know that there are also educators at the university level who can spark passion in children at a young age,” she said. “From the start, it was sort of our ideal hope to have resources at hand.

Tamarack’s environmental educator, Madeleine Moloney, said she hopes to plan lessons and activities with the UI’s sustainability office and the environmental program.

“We hope to reach out to different program directors within and just set up something with their students to come and teach,” Moloney said.

Students received instructions from the UI astronomy department last year, said Liz Ernst, director of the Tamarack program.

“They brought in a few hardworking students and showed us around,” Ernst said. “We went to Van Allen and they showed us the telescopes.”

Christiansen said that right now schools like Tamarack Discovery School are looking into what alternative education looks like.

“We took the things that were already in our community – the things that we enjoy,” she said. “One of those things being that our children spend a lot of time connecting with nature for ourselves, our mental health, and our physical health.”