Iowa schools staying open as state positivity rate hits new high

Posted at 9:12 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 23:28:04-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds laid out the requirements for school districts to apply for temporary remote learning, should the need arise.

One of those requirements is that the county where the district is located must have at least a 15% positivity rate. Several counties in Iowa as well as the state as a whole now meet this requirement. The second requirement is that the district have a 10% absentee rate tied to COVID-19.

In Pottawattamie County, where the positivity rate just reached 15%, the Council Bluffs Community School District says they are nowhere near that absentee requirement.

"At this time, less than 1% of staff and students are currently isolated from school with COVID-19," said Dr. Vickie Murillo, Superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District. "Our Return to Learn plan outlines a remote learning phase that we could implement at a school or district level if necessary. However, we are not considering a shift to this remote phase at this time."

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The Lewis Central School District which stretches across Pottawattamie and Mills counties, says they also have low numbers when it comes to students staying home, and they are not considering going virtual at this time.

The superintendent did say however that they could run into issues should a staff member need to quarantine.

“You know finding out at five in the morning that I don’t have enough bodies to cover all of our classrooms, or enough bodies to drive all of our buses or clean and disinfect the schools those kind of things," said Eric Knost, Superintendent of Lewis Central Community School District. "I think if that were to ever happen, I may be forced to close like I would a snow day.”

And in Harrison County, where the positivity rate is at 19%, the West Harrison Community School District says they too are sticking with in person learning, having only seen a 4% absentee rate. The superintendent there says he believes following basic precautions has kept that high positivity rate from coming into the schools.

“We’ve required masks from the beginning, a lot more hand sanitizer and a lot more cleaning of classroom desks and those types of things," said Marty Fonely, Superintendent of West Harrison Community School District.

Even if these districts hit that 10% absentee rate, the state guidance only allows them to request to transition to continuous remote learning for up to 14 days.

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