DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines students are back in school, but COVID-19 has also returned to the classroom.
Des Moines Public Schools has counted 59 positive COVID-19 cases among its school population; 25 of them are students, and the other 34 are teachers and other staff members.
“We want people to think about more than themselves and think about the ripple effect this virus has,” said Des Moines Public Schools communications director Philip Roeder. “These next few weeks are going to be critical to see how many students and teachers test positive.”
Roeder said Des Moines Public Schools does notify parents if their children may have come in contact with a positive case. They are also in the process of relaunching a COVID-19 case tracker website so the public can stay informed.
Additionally, the school district is prepared to temporarily close schools if an outbreak occurs.
“We had a couple of small summer programs that had to temporarily shut down because students tested positive,” Roeder said.
Des Moines Public Schools temporarily closed its administration building this week because of a surge in cases. Roeder said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, likely because he was in close contact with COVID-positive people inside of the administration building.
“I’m fortunate unlike people who have been hit much, much worse to not be hospitalized,” said Roeder, who added he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Roeder said there is frustration within the district about the inability to require masks among students and staff, a recommended step from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is illegal in Iowa. However, Des Moines Public Schools has put up signs encouraging masking up on school property.
Roeder hopes this initial COVID-19 situation is a reminder to students and parents to take the virus seriously once again.
“We’d be able to make other lives better if we had the ability to make sure everyone did the right thing,” Roeder said.