Superintendent to Determine if Students Return to In-Person Learning Prior to Winter Break (12/08/20)
In a special Board of Education meeting held Monday, Dec.7, WDMCS leadership updated the Board on current COVID-19 data within Polk County and the district. Based on this information, the Board approved giving Superintendent Lisa Remy, Ed. D., authority to determine if students will return to in-person/on-site learning before winter break. It is possible students could return as soon as Monday, Dec. 14.
WDMCS considers several factors to make our decision, including how COVID-19 is impacting both our community and district. Here’s what we know:
- The Polk County COVID-19 positivity percentage continues to decline since mid-November (currently 15.1%).
- Student absences dramatically decreased in the past three weeks since transitioning online Monday, Nov. 16. For the week of Nov. 23-Dec. 3, most schools reported 1-5% absenteeism for all illness types, including COVID-19. No school exceeded 7.3% on any one day.
- Staff absences also fell, with the highest percentage at 7.7% on one day. This percentage included all absentee leave reasons, including COVID-19.
- Student and staff positive COVID-19 cases reported dramatically declined over a two-week period.
- Student and staff close contact COVID-19 cases also dramatically declined.
Why consider returning to school?
Because both student and staff absenteeism and reported COVID-19 cases have declined, we believe we could safely return to in-person learning from Monday, Dec. 14-Tuesday, Dec. 22. We also understand many families have been placed in a difficult situation with supporting their students while trying to balance work and other responsibilities.
Why consider staying online?
The Polk County Health Department indicated a spike in positivity rates as a result of Thanksgiving break may not be evident until approximately 10 days after students are in school. This means if a spike would occur, it could happen sometime this week. We do not wish to bring students and staff back into the classrooms and risk increasing the spread of the virus.
When will a decision be made?
Superintendent Remy and the WDMCS leadership team plan to make a final decision later this week. This allows the Nutrition Services Department to adequately prepare for student meals if we return on Monday, Dec. 14.
If students return, what about activities and athletics?
If students return on Monday, Dec. 14, all district-related co-curricular activities, extracurricular activities, and athletics will resume. Detailed information would be emailed to students and families based on the activity.
If students do not return until Jan. 5, can practices resume over winter break?
If students do not return to school prior to Jan. 5, co-curricular activities, extracurricular activities, and athletics will be able to resume practice over winter break. COVID-19 safety guidelines must be followed. Practices could resume Tuesday, Dec. 22.
What about facility rentals?
If students return to school Monday, Dec. 14, rentals (both buildings and outdoor spaces) would be allowed.
Please keep in mind the important role that our family and community members play in keeping us in the in-person and hybrid models. Wearing face masks in public, practicing physical distancing, frequent and correct hand washing, minimizing your time out in public, limiting the number of people you interact with, and staying home when you are sick will all help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Questions about COVID-19? Call 211. A public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7.