CORONAVIRUS

Iowa City schools considering in-person return Sept. 28

District waiting to see if coronavirus positivity rate drops below 10 percent

Callista Ruopp (center) helps Zuly Palante (left) get to the correct spot on a worksheet on her laptop computer as she p
Callista Ruopp (center) helps Zuly Palante (left) get to the correct spot on a worksheet on her laptop computer as she participates in her first grade class while her son Alexei Maier (right) participates in his class at Ruopp’s home in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
/

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Community School District is considering returning to the hybrid learning model Sept. 28, after three weeks of online instruction as cases of the coronavirus trend down in Johnson County.

The district received a second two-week waiver for online instruction last week from the Iowa Department of Education.

At the time the district received the waiver, the 14-day positivity rate for Johnson County was above 15 percent. On Tuesday, the positivity rate was 13.45 percent.

The district is anticipating the 14-day positivity rate will drop below 10 percent by Friday, and at that point feel safe returning to hybrid learning of 50 percent in-person and 50 percent online. The decision will be announced to families Friday.

Iowa City schools started classes virtually on Sept. 8, after receiving its first two-week waiver for online instruction.

Interim Superintendent Matt Degner said the recent rise in COVID-19 cases is being contained to people between 18 and 24 years old and feels comfortable returning to the hybrid learning model.

“I think we’ve stayed firm in our commitment that we’re not going to roll the dice in regard to health and safety, knowing we would have a large influx of young adults into our community” returning to the University of Iowa, Degner said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The district will spend the week of Sept. 21, preparing to transition from the online to the hybrid learning model, Degner said.

The district is launching a COVID-19 dashboard on its website, iowacityschools.org, that tracks information on students and staff testing positive for the coronavirus.

The data includes the number of students and staff with active cases of COVID-19, the percent of students and staff testing positive, the number of students and staff currently in isolation or quarantine, the percent of students and staff in isolation or quarantine, and the total number of positive cases for students and staff.

The district is unable to break down the numbers by building because students and staff could then be identified.

Degner said families have shared with him the stress and pressure they are under and that they want their students back in the classroom.

“We are all educators, and we are all best in the classroom in front of people,” Degner said. “We understand the stress this has continued to put on students and families. We’re trying to work hard to get them back as best we can.”

“I think the numbers show we are moving into a much better place,” said Shawn Eyestone, school board president. “I would rather be wrong and be safe than be right and not acting on it. I’m very happy we’ve done what we’ve done, and I’m pleased with where the numbers are going.”

The district is not requiring a board vote every time it switches between the online and hybrid learning model. The school board approved a matrix to help guide the decisions earlier this month.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The matrix considers the county’s 14-day positivity rate and each building’s absentee rate for students and staff.

The district does not know when they will be able to begin in-person extracurricular activities after resuming in-person instruction.

Degner said they were awaiting clarification from the Department of Education.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.