116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — More than 600 students in the Iowa City Community School District were in quarantine Wednesday — including about a third of the students at Northwest Junior High School — because of exposure to the novel coronavirus.
Of those students, 127 have tested positive for COVID-19. Five staff members are positive for the disease, and 16 are in quarantine.
In all, 11 classrooms were closed because of the absences. When a classroom is closed, however, students continue learning virtually for two weeks until they can return to in-person learning.
“Over the past few weeks when conducting contact tracing for confirmed positive cases in our buildings, we have seen an increase in the number of students identified as close contacts,” district communications director Kristin Pedersen said in an email Wednesday.
“This increase is, in part, due to the influx of students in our buildings since returning to 100 percent, on-site learning and the inability to no longer maintain proper social distancing measures.”
At a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she was not familiar with the Iowa City situation but maintained the virus is not largely transmitted inside school buildings.
“Most of the teachers and the kids were being exposed outside of the classroom,” she said. “We weren’t seeing the transmission inside the classroom.”
Northwest Junior High in Coralville is the district’s school with the most students — 253 — in quarantine. Fewer than 10 students have tested positive. About 700 students typically attend the school.
City High School has the second largest number of students in quarantine — 99 — and 18 students have tested positive for the disease.
Lucas Elementary School has 43 students in quarantine and fewer than 10 with the infection.
Other Iowa City district schools with more than 10 students in quarantine are seven elementaries — Borlaug, Coralville Central, Garner, Horn, Lemme, Longfellow and Weber — South East Junior High; and Liberty and West high schools.
Iowa City schools are following quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case, even if both people were properly wearing a mask, will be quarantined.
The district also is continuing with its 14-day quarantine guideline for students and staff exposed to COVID-19. The CDC released new guidance earlier this year that allows for reducing the number of days from 14 to 10.
The district has been struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19 after more than 100 students were quarantined at Northwest Junior High the first week of March.
In an email to families March 3, Northwest Principal Elizabeth Bruening said four students and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and were contagious while at school.
Earlier this year, Reynolds signed into law Senate File 160, which required K-12 school to offer 100 percent in-person learning starting Feb. 15.
Since then, Iowa City district officials have expressed concern about quarantining a larger number of students because of that requirement.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.