WAUKEE, Iowa — For many parents, the decision between in-person learning and online learning was one of the hardest they have had to make for their children.
Waukee Community School District forced parents to choose between the two options. For those in-person learners, there are so far no regrets. But back on the first day of school, it would have been fair to say most people were singing a different tune than they are now.
“I really thought that we probably would be back at home the second week of school,” said Waukee High School student Cloe Crigger.
But nine weeks later, without even a hint of an outbreak, students and teachers in Waukee are in a remarkably good rhythm.
“I think things are going better than I expected going into it,” said Waukee teacher Jeff Knutson.
Knutsen was on the return-to-learn planning team for the high school choir. They came up with a mask-wearing, social distancing and at times virtual approach to music. “I think that students are doing a really good job,” said Knutsen.
Students like Cloe also think the return to in-person learning has gone well. “My mom is actually a sub at Brookview Elementary, and she really likes how it’s been going, too,” said Cloe.
The statistics show exactly how it has been going. The district has about 9,200 students and 1,800 faculty and staff. They are within 14 buildings, five days a week. Since the first day of classes, Waukee has had 79 positive cases. That is an overall positivity rate of 0.7%. But the most important number is the transmission rate, which is at 0%.
Superintendent Brad Buck says there has been no evidence of a student or teacher catching the virus from another student or teacher at school. Naturally, others have been curious about this success. “We’ve had the governor’s office reach out to us as a potential example,” said Buck.
Buck says people have been asking how they have made in-person learning possible during the pandemic. He referenced how they monitor students throughout the day.
“The person that’s monitoring the kids takes pictures of everybody in the room so we know who was sitting with whom on any given day at any given time so if we need to do contact tracing,” said Buck.
As more districts transition to full-time, in-person learning, Buck recommends everybody give each other a little grace while remembering what is important.
“Make sure that you stay vigilant through all of the phases of this,” said Buck. “Be encouraged but also be vigilant.”
Waukee families will receive a survey sometime before Thanksgiving. The survey will tell the district if more students plan to show up in person for the spring semester. Currently, Waukee has about 2,000 online learners.
“I personally hope there will be. I’ve heard that a few students will probably return back to school. I think that they realized our school is doing a really good job of making sure everyone is safe,” said Cloe. “It’s been such a blessing to still be here with my friends and with the amazing faculty.”