116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As the first day of school approaches Aug. 23, the Cedar Rapids Community School District is strongly encouraging students and staff to wear a mask and get vaccinated if eligible. It also has extended the deadline for students to enroll in the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy, an online learning option for K-12 students.
Students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for 10 days, and the district will not conduct contact tracing for people who come in contact with someone who tests positive, following guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Linn County Public Health can choose to conduct contact tracing for schools but is not planning on doing so at this time, Superintendent Noreen Bush said during a school board meeting Monday.
Of 2,000 students in summer school, only two tested positive for COVID-19 that the district is aware of, Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said.
“We’re saying we truly believe it is safe, and we want to welcome your students and make them feel that sense of belonging,” she said.
Bush said the district can consider contact tracing if there is a need because of a rise in positive COVID-19 cases in schools.
“I would like the district to consider contact tracing sooner before waiting for the positivity rate to increase because if the positivity rate increases, that means we’re too late,” school board member Scot Reisinger said.
Reisinger asked the district to consider setting a policy that would require anyone who comes in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and is not wearing a mask to quarantine.
The Iowa City Community School District is considering a similar policy.
Bush said she doesn’t want any child to walk into school feeling unwelcome.
“In the end, their parents are their first teachers and are going to make recommendations for them (on wearing a mask),” Bush said. We have to support that no matter what our opinions are. We don’t want to put our children in the middle of their parents and the people who support them for eight hours a day at school.“
Since the district has only two learning options this year — in-person or the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy — there is also not an option for students to continue teacher-guided instruction at home if they are quarantining, Bush said.
“They can certainly do some home-based instruction, but they won’t have remote access,” she said.
The deadline for the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy has been extended to Aug. 16 at noon. The original deadline was Aug. 2.
There are 2.2 percent of kindergarten through fifth-grade students enrolled in the virtual academy; 3.9 percent of sixth- through eighth-graders; and 2.7 percent of high school students are enrolled in at least one virtual course.
“We feel strongly prepared for the school year, and we are ready to welcome our kids back in person, but we have another option for them if they choose,” Bush said.
The district’s COVID-19 dashboard will continue to be updated on the number of students and staff who test positive for the virus.
Families will be contacted by a letter of any positive COVID-19 cases in their child’s school.
While masks cannot be required to be worn in the classroom, per Iowa law, they will be available to anyone who wants one.
Students will be required to wear a mask on the bus or district vehicle, in accordance with federal law, and a mask will be provided for those who don’t have one.
Mitigation strategies such as encouraging more hand washing and hand sanitizing and enhanced cleaning procedures also will continue.
The district also has certified tests available to students and staff experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
About 70 percent of Cedar Rapids Community School District employees are vaccinated. Linn County Public Health will provide info to the district on the number of students who are vaccinated, Bush said.
“If you have the level of vaccination rate we do like with our employees, you don’t have to quarantine if you’ve been vaccinated or the majority of the population has been vaccinated,” Bush said.
The district is the only school-based health clinic in Iowa, which means they can provide the COVID-19 vaccine to students or staff who want it, Bush said.
The district canceled an event for over 3,000 employees to celebrate the beginning of the 2021-22 school year scheduled for Aug. 20, as a mitigation effort against COVID-19.
Bush, who wore a mask during the school board meeting, said she chooses to wear a mask as the delta variant causes a rise in COVID-19 cases. She did not wear a mask at the last meeting in July.
“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe and healthy,” Bush said.
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