Meeting as six classes at the elementary are currently quarantined due to a positive case, the Anamosa school board heard from district officials how the current way of doing business was going.
The six classes quarantined over the previous few school days are the most the elementary have had quarantined at a time. One case resulted in two classes having to quarantine, another caused the other four quarantines. In order to attempt to limit the number of classes at the elementary to have to quarantine, the school board approved requiring masks all day, given the governor’s proclamation from the Iowa Department of Public Health saying that quarantines would not be necessary if masks are worn, even if someone is in close contact with someone that tests positive.
However, given that students don’t have space to social distance while eating lunch, Superintendent Larry Hunt was unsure how that would impact the elementary and their need to quarantine after positive tests.
“They wouldn’t necessarily not be quarantined because they might have lunch and they take their masks off to eat and we don’t have the facilities to social distance kids during lunch,” Hunt said.
In a survey from the community, a slight majority, 51%, favored coming back to school full time, but the survey was sent out before the batch of quarantine orders at the elementary, and 20% said they would not send kids back if the district did that.
Hunt worried about the ramifications if the district brought everybody back and then had to immediately quarantine classes due to a positive case. Given the cost of the online program, there were also financial ramifications to consider. For the 125 students that chose the online option, about 10% of the student body, for the first semester alone, it’s estimated to cost the district between $45,000 and $50,000. That cost would increase if more families went online due to in person classes resuming.
At the high school, thanks to the hybrid model, students have not had to be quarantined due to school being able to social distance while at school. None of the six positive cases for students have required quarantining due to contacts at school, though 40 students were quarantined due to a positive case in an extracurricular.
The hybrid model is the only reason the high school hasn’t had to shut down, according to Anamosa High School Principal Erin Thompson. When normal absences, for things like funerals, are combined with COVID-related absences, staffing is the real limiting factor. Finding substitutes, which was already difficult, has become almost impossible.
“If we can’t keep our teachers in front of our kids, we can’t keep kids in school at all,” Hunt said. “We have to protect our teachers.”
Hunt remained confident, based on feedback from parents he had heard from and public health officials, that the hybrid model remained the way to go at the secondary sites. He noted the district was spending far less time working on contact tracing than other districts because of the model.
Following up discussion at the previous meeting, Anamosa Middle School Principal Linda Vaughn presented some of the learning data for the middle school. The data showed that in summative exams, 87% of students are either excelling (16%) or proficient (70.7%), with an additional 10% being competent. As far as the speed at which students are learning, according to teachers, it’s a mix of students being slightly behind a year ago or in about the same place. A couple classes are slightly ahead in a given subject.
The board unanimously passed a motion that adopted the new quarantine guidelines, as mentioned above, while sticking with the hybrid model at the middle school and high school and in person learning at the elementary.
Changes to the calendar were approved, waiving one day of school for students lost during the derecho and adding the snow days of April 1, May 27 and May 28 to the calendar as full days. By direction of the governor, districts this year will be allowed to do online learning in case of snow days this year so they won’t have to make those up.