IOWA CITY — The Iowa City school board is celebrating news that staff in the district will begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this week, while warning getting everyone vaccinated will be a long process.
“It’s obviously slow going. That’s a theme we’ve heard from Johnson County Public Health and the state, but we also think this is fantastic news,” Iowa City schools chief operating officer Chace Ramey said during a school board meeting Tuesday.
Distributing vaccines is a “fluid situation,” Superintendent Matt Degner said.
The district is moving forward as “aggressively” as possible, and staff have expressed anxiety about when they can get the vaccine, he said.
Over 2,000 employees responded to a survey saying they are interested in getting the vaccine from the school district this spring. The district has broken staff into five tiers for vaccinations.
Staff who are 65 years or older and on site at school for 50 percent of the time or more will be prioritized for the vaccine first. The last tier is employees on site zero to 25 percent of the time, including substitute and student teachers.
Bus drivers can fall into any category depending on their age and how long they spend interacting with students.
Vaccinations for Iowa City school staff are planned once a week with the University of Iowa Clinics.
Last month, school nurses in Linn County received their first dose of the vaccine. They qualified under Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.
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Phase 1B, which began Monday, includes K-12 teachers, school staff and child care workers, along with first responders and people 65 and older.
“We will continue to provide updates on vaccine allocation as frequently as we meet with the school board,” Degner said. “It’s something we need to continue to advocate for, especially on the heels of this 100 percent in-person learning requirement.”
Preparing for in-person learning
Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law Senate File 160, which requires K-12 schools to offer a 100 percent in-person learning option by Feb. 15.
Hybrid learning no longer is an option, assistant superintendent Amy Kortemeyer said.
About 103 elementary students will transition to in-person learning, and 27 will move to virtual learning.
There are 50 secondary students moving to in-person learning and 75 moving to virtual learning.
Families have until Wednesday to switch learning models.
The district is working on revising student and staff schedules to accommodate the shift from online to in-person learning and from hybrid to 100 percent in-person instruction.
All staff are being provided KN-95 masks as more students will be in the buildings at a time.
The district’s health and safety team is working with building principals on how to best use classroom spaces to maintain 6 feet of distance between students.
If a classroom of students has to quarantine for 14 days because of exposure to COVID-19, students will continue to learn remotely.
If an individual has to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure, they can keep up with assignments through a virtual platform, but will not be taught live by a teacher.
“The brutal truth is (social distancing) is going to be severely impacted,” Degner said. “Obviously having students in classrooms daily is going to benefit them academically, but on the health and safety side the ability to social distance is going to be different.”
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