Des Moines School Board Approves Metrics to Send Students Back to Class

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As long as Polk County’s coronavirus numbers stay stagnant or start to decline, Des Moines Public School students will start to head back to the classroom starting on Oct 12.

After four hours of discussion and discourse Wednesday night, the Des Moines School Board voted 6-1 on metrics deemed safe enough for students to return to the classroom, and when they would potentially switch back to online learning.

There are four categories of COVID-19 data in Polk County that DMPS is weighing for each learning model: positive cases per 100,000 people, the positivity rate over a 7-day period, and absenteeism rates amongst staff and students.

Hybrid Learning

  • Positive cases per 100,000 people: 11-99
  • Positivity rate: 5-10%
  • Student absenteeism: 5-9.9%
  • Staff absenteeism: 5-9.9%

Any numbers lower and the district would consider moving the students to full in-person learning. If county metrics rise higher, the district would consider switching back to remote learning.

Full In-Person Learning

  • Positive cases per 100,000 people: less than 10
  • Positivity rate: less than 5%
  • Student absenteeism: less than 5%
  • Staff absenteeism: less than 5%

Full Remote Learning

  • Positive cases per 100,000 people: more than 100
  • Positivity rate: more than 10%
  • Student absenteeism: more than 10%
  • Staff absenteeism: less than 10%

The board said if there are significant changes in the metrics, these thresholds will not automatically trigger a switch in learning models; a change would require the board to meet again and reevaluate the situation.

The metrics for hybrid and full in-person model will put Des Moines Schools back into compliance with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ guidelines. However, if the school district were to switch back to fully remote learning, that would defy the state’s thresholds.

School districts do not qualify for a waiver for 100 percent online learning unless the county has a positivity rate of 15 percent or higher.

Currently, Polk County has a positivity rate of 6.5 percent.

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