CORONAVIRUS

Solon school district not requiring masks for students, teachers

Principal Zach Wigle answers a question in the hallway on the first floor of Solon Intermediate in Solon on Friday, Jan.
Principal Zach Wigle answers a question in the hallway on the first floor of Solon Intermediate in Solon on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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SOLON — The Solon Community School District is not requiring students wear masks in its “return to learn” plan, citing guidance from the Department of Education released last month.

Superintendent Davis Eidahl said he believes recommending face coverings and providing either a mask or face shield to every student and staff member will help the district exceed the use of face coverings compared with districts requiring masks such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa City or Linn-Mar.

“We all agree that masks reduce the spread of the virus when social distancing can’t be achieved,” Eidahl said. “We are strongly encouraging their use ... and we are going to put a lot of time and attention into encouraging and teaching students how to wear them and use them and why we need to.”

If the district requires face coverings and doesn’t enforce it, the district opens itself up to liability, Eidahl said.

The return to learn plan will be evaluated at the end of each day for the first 10 days of the school year, Eidahl said.

“If there’s changes that need to be made, if we learn otherwise our approach in any aspect isn’t working, we’ll respond appropriately,” he said, adding that changes could include mandating masks.

Solon’s return to learn plan includes two options for students: returning to in-person classrooms or enrolling in virtual learning.

For students who return to class in person, classroom schedules and routines will be altered to promote social distancing to the extent possible, according to the district plan. This includes staggering dismissal times and limiting transitions in hallways and the cafeteria.

Lunch time will be lengthened and lunch periods staggered to limit the number of students in the lunchroom at one time.

Assigned seating will be required to maintain social distancing in classrooms, lunchrooms and other learning areas.

The district is offering virtual learning to any students who are unable to or feel uncomfortable returning to in-person classes.

Kindergarten through eighth-graders will learn online through Edmentum, a national company the district chose because the company uses certified Iowa teachers, Eidahl said.

High school students who choose virtual learning will be enrolled in Apex, another company offering online courses.

“We felt it was important we don’t put that responsibility on our teachers to do both in classroom on site and the home learning online,” Eidahl said.

Eidahl said the district is relying heavily on Johnson County Public Health for guidance on when to close a school if there was an outbreak of the coronavirus.

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

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