How school districts are addressing COVID-19 outbreaks and contact tracing as classes begin

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DES MOINES, Iowa —  Wednesday the last round of districts in central Iowa will begin their school year, including West Des Moines, Ames, and Des Moines Public Schools; the largest district in the state. 

All of these districts are requiring students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 to stay home for at least 10 days and strongly encourage those exposed to stay home as well. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health is not requiring districts to contact trace. However,  DMPS will send a letter home to families of possible exposed students. West Des Moines will only send emails regarding positive cases to elementary grade levels. Ames will conduct contact tracing for students under the age of 12, who are unable to get vaccinated. 

Regardless of how many positive cases are confirmed in schools, according to the Department of Education, districts must be authorized by a Governor’s disaster proclamation to transition to a hybrid or 100% virtual learning model. Currently, there is not a proclamation in place. 

“We have a lot of students that have health needs and concerns, aside from COVID that we work with all the time. So we’re not in the position to do an overarching blanket change that everybody is going to go hybrid or everybody is going to go online,” Director of Communications at Des Moines Public Schools, Phil Roeder said. “But on a case by case basis, we’re certainly gonna work with our families.” 

DMPS, Ames, and West Des Moines will all be offering online options for various grade levels. Ames and West Des Moines confirmed that they will continue to update a COVID-19 dashboard on their websites. 

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