Iowa City schools apply for waiver to go online only; hundreds of students, staff in quarantine
With cases of COVID-19 rising across Johnson County, the Iowa City Community School District applied for a waiver from the state on Saturday that would allow the district to hold all classes online for two weeks.
The district has continued to report rising cases among students and staff — forcing more than 400 students and staff into quarantine, on top of the 115 sick or presumed to be sick with the virus Monday.
According to the Iowa City district's data dashboard, there are currently 95 cases among students and 20 among district staff. There are also 371 students and 65 staff being asked to quarantine due to exposure across the district, which serves around 14,000 students and employs around 2,000.
A total of 354 students and 91 staff have contracted the virus since Aug. 15.
The more than 400 students and staff quarantining also represent 11 classrooms that been asked to quarantine because someone tested positive after being in the room. School nurses, in conjunction with the Johnson County Health Department, work together to conduct contact tracing and determine who from the classroom should quarantine.
Three extracurricular activities are currently suspended due to exposure.
In cases where a student or staff member who tested positive moved around the school building during the day — like a high school student or student in a sports activity — the district traces the individual’s movement since the time they are deemed contagious, according to a statement from the district.
Unlike Gov. Kim Reynolds' administration, the district has elected to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance on quarantine procedures.
That means the district will ask students and employees to quarantine if they have spent 15 minutes over a 24-hour time period within close contact of someone who has tested positive, regardless of whether the minutes were consecutive or both people were wearing masks.
Iowa City school district applies for state waiver to go online-only
The district reached its threshold to ask permission of the Iowa Department of Education to temporarily hold all classes online for two weeks, and applied for a waiver to do so on Saturday.
As of Monday afternoon, the district is awaiting a decision by the DOE on its waiver request, according to a statement from spokesperson Kristin Pedersen.
► From last week:Johnson County's 14-day positivity rate tops 10%
About 54% of students in the district are currently taking classes in-person, in a hybrid model. According to the district's "decision matrix," officials planned to apply for a waiver from the state to hold two weeks of classes fully online for all of its students if Johnson County's 14-day positivity rate average tops 10% for three to five days, consecutively.
Monday was the sixth day in a row with rates that met that threshold — the county reported a rolling average of 14.9% Monday morning.
Neighboring Clear Creek Amana school district applies for a waiver
As the coronavirus spreads across Iowa, many districts and schools are applying for waivers from the state to classes completely online. Last week, 11 schools or districts applied for state waivers.
Among the districts that have applied is the Clear Creek Amana Community School District, which is experiencing "critical issues" with staffing due to the virus, a statement from the district read Monday.
According to the statement, 13 bus drivers and two bus mechanics are in 14-day quarantines. There are also five groups of students in elementary and middle schools who are in quarantine, impacting 165 total students.
► 'Around the clock concern':Iowa schools weigh requesting switch to online learning as COVID-19 surges
Another 49 teachers and staff who are in quarantine or have tested positive.
"Without enough drivers to transport students to school, and the struggle to cover classes within the schools, the district made the decision to go virtual today and tomorrow and will await the Department of Education’s decision for approval of a two-week virtual learning waiver," Monday's statement reads.