If no post-holiday surge is forthcoming, the full student body could return to the halls of Anamosa schools for the start of the second semester Jan. 18 after the Anamosa school board unanimously approved the plan at their Dec. 21 meeting.

“We think is strongly time to look at coming back to school full time with all our kids,” Superintendent Larry Hunt said.

The hope is to get as close to a “normal” school day as possible in this day and age. In order to accomplish this, students will have to wear masks all day, instead of just a few hours as they do under the current, which includes longer wearing of masks for students.

“I think the big thing with that is we need to make sure that kids are wearing [masks] appropriately, because if not, we don’t have the social distancing that we have right now. So, if we have to quarantine, we may end up quarantining a large number of kids through contact tracing versus the small numbers we might be able to quarantine now.”

As the district goes back to in person, Hunt said it’s important for parents to emphasize to their students the importance of wearing their masks and doing so correctly.

With the increased traffic, there won’t be the possibility of being able to keep kids socially distanced, particularly when it comes to passing time and lunch. At the elementary school, classes have had to quarantine because masks had to be taken off to eat, and there wasn’t enough room to social distance.

To try to counter-balance that, the high school is looking at adding at least one more lunch period. At the middle school, the number of students in the cafeteria at one time will be reduced, and classes will be assigned tables and spaced out in their cohorts.

In the halls, that means implementing one-way traffic and limiting or eliminating locker use for students.

The district is still determining how to deal with specials like band, choir and physical education. The return to the classroom will also allow for exploratory classes to return at the middle school.

While the change comes with risks for increased student quarantines in the case of positive cases, when the administrative team met, the pros outweighed the risks.

“We can all see the research that suicide rates are up and depression rates are up,” Hunt said, citing the negative aspects of increased isolation and the additional stressors being put on families at this time.

As far as student achievement, the data was showing some positive numbers, with achievement up and behavioral issues way down. With the way some students have thrived under the current model, Hunt said there could be some larger discussions about the way Americans have approached their schooling in the wake of the pandemic.

If the district sees a spike in local cases after the holidays, the district could decide to remain with the hybrid model for a couple more weeks.

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