West Des Moines schools will apply to state to move all classes online
Because of the community spread of the coronavirus in Polk County, the West Des Moines Community School District school board voted Monday to apply for state permission to move all schools online.
That vote followed a recommendation from the district's administration. The dates that the West Des Moines school district will request to deliver fully virtual learning are Nov. 16-20, Nov. 23-24 and Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. The district had a planned flex day, meaning no school, on Nov. 25 before the two-day Thanksgiving break.
The district would return to its hybrid model on Thursday, Dec. 3, according to the application it is filing to the Iowa Department of Education. The state requires school districts to meet a 50% in-person learning benchmark and apply for temporary waivers in order to move fully online.
The West Des Moines school board also made a contingency plan should the state deny its application. If the districtwide request is rejected, the district has the board’s permission to file one or more applications for individual schools to go virtual. Those decisions will be based on student attendance data and Polk County's positivity rates at that time, a district spokesperson said.
Administrators said Monday that Valley High is in the worst position of any school in the district, and they have been alarmed by the steadily growing number of absent, quarantined and infected students and staff in the last two weeks.
Last Friday, nearly 14% of Valley students were absent due to COVID-19 or another illness, according to a presentation given to the school board. Districtwide, 51 students tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the two weeks between Oct. 24 and Nov. 6. Ten are elementary students and 41 are in middle or high school.
Roughly two-thirds of the students found to be infected in that time frame were not quarantined before they tested positive, the district says. That means more positive cases could be coming.
A total of 230 students — 96 in elementary and 134 in secondary — were quarantined as a result of close contact with an infected person within the same two-week period.
The district said it will update families on the plan on Tuesday.
Shelby Fleig covers Des Moines city government for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-214-8933.