One district has requested permission from the Iowa Department of Education to transition its junior-senior high school to a 100 percent digital format for two weeks amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"We do not have a grade (in the junior-senior high school) that is below 10% in terms of student illness, and that would be a total of positive students, ill students and those students that are in quarantine that we know are now showing symptoms of illness,"
During the meeting, the board unanimously voted in favor of Beames' recommendation subject to the state's approval. Beames submitted an application to the state on Wednesday to transition sixth- through 12th-grades to online learning beginning Monday in an effort to expedite the process and prevent the transition from taking place in the middle of the school week. Beames expects to be notified of the state's decision by the end of the day Friday.
"I don't see where we have an option," board member Pam Dodds said. "I mean, you've got too many kids gone and what I've heard too is the staff is suffering. They don't have enough staff and some of the staff are using their planning periods to go out and cover classes."
As of Thursday, 143 junior high and high school students — 64 and 79 respectively — were absent from school due to illness and quarantine, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard.
Of those students, 17 had tested positive for the virus; 37 were absent due to other illness; and 89 were absent due quarantining after having had close contact with someone who tested positive.
At least 20 quarantined students are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. The district has sent surveys to quarantined students asking them to report whether they have symptoms. About half of students had responded as of Thursday.
"Much of this has been traced to clusters of students participating in school activities as well as large group events outside of school," Beames told The Hawk Eye.
Beames informed the board that
Even if the state approves the district's request,
"I think if we don't do something now, it's going to keep trickling on down the line to where we might not even have basketball," board member Bruce Thuleen said.
Thuleen asked if students still will be able to come to school on Friday — which now is set aside for teachers to meet with struggling students — should the state approve the district's application. Beames pointed out that
She also advised that students limit their in-person social interactions outside of school while the rate of spread remains high.
"We hope that everybody also considers keeping very tight circles of interaction between the kids to help break the cycle and things like that," Beames said. "We'll have a lot of kids who should be coming out of quarantine at that time, but it's just a really fluid situation."
Should the state approve the district's application, the district may reapply to extend the virtual learning for another two weeks depending on the state of COVID-19 in its student population at that time.
(c)2020 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.