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School Districts in Counties with High COVID-19 Positivity Rates Decide Against 100% Virtual

Coronavirus

DES MOINES, Iowa — On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed there have been more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in the state. Eighteen counties now have a positivity rate of over 15%.

School districts in these 18 counties could be eligible for 100% virtual learning. However, according to the Iowa Department of Education, these school districts have yet to request to move classes online. 

Hamburg, a school in Fremont County, was approved for a virtual learning waiver from the Department of Education the first week of October. Hamburg has not asked to renew this approval. 

School districts in Delaware, O’Brien, Harrison and Guthrie counties do not plan on going 100% virtual.

Administrators at these school districts said although the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase in their counties, the positivity rate in their schools does not reflect that.

Dr. Rossana Rosa, an infectious disease specialist at UnityPoint Health, said these superintendents shouldn’t look at their school and their community as separate entities.

“It’s important to remember that schools are not bubbles. Schools will reflect, potentially amplify whatever is happening in that community,” Dr. Rosa said. “If you have places that are hotspots within the hotspot that Iowa is, then those are places that may need to enact tougher measures in order to control spread.” 

Wade Riley, superintendent of the South O’Brien Community School District, said his district would consider moving online. However, they don’t meet the Department of Education’s other requirement of having a 10% rate of absenteeism among students.

With the exception of Guthrie Center School District, superintendents of these districts said they require students and staff to wear masks. Gov. Kim Reynolds has marked face coverings as a key way to fight the virus when in close proximity to others. 

Dr. Rosa explains what students are doing at home is equally important.

“Ultimately these kids will go back to their neighborhoods, will go back to their households. And so, again, keeping our schools open depends on controlling COVID in our communities,” Dr. Rosa said. 

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