Dubuque schools superintendent suggests delay for extra time to prepare for coming year

The district is still working with county and city leaders on contact tracing guidelines
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 8:10 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Jeff Lenhart started working as a para-educator at Washington Middle School last October. He said, in just three months, he got sick six times.

“Some people tell me that schools are ground zero or a pool of germs and you do not know what kids are carrying and staff is carrying and who they are interacting with during the weekends or nights,” Lenhart said.

Lenhart would appreciate a decision to delay the first day of school.

Stan Rheingans, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District, proposed to delay the first day of school by ten days. The new start date would be August 24. The district plans on using that extra time to establish contract tracing procedures if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.

For some parents, though, a possible postponement would bring complications.

Dawn Blaser is a single mother with children in the school district. She said she is frustrated with the late announcement since school is scheduled to start on Friday, August 14.

”I had to change my schedule for next week and now today I had to change it back again,” Blaser said. “I still do not know if I am going to be working on A or B day or if I am going to work full-time.”

Rheingans said they continue getting consistent questions from many parents, which validates the need for the delay.

”Most of the parents we are hearing from who have questions or concerns still are saying, ‘How will that look like? How will I know when my son or daughter have a positive case in their class? How will we be informed?‘” Rheingans said.

The district was expecting some guidance on contact tracing from the state.

”We thought it would be a little bit more concrete and really what it did was shift it to the county level,” Rheingans said. “So that has left our county partners as well as our city partners and the district in a little bit of a scramble to make that happen.”

Rheingans said an extra week will give them enough time to come up with a solution between the district, city, and county.

”We need to have that system really finely tuned because that is what is fair to parents, that is what is fair to our community,” Rheingans said.

Rheingans added that this extra week also gives parents a chance to reconsider whether or not they feel comfortable sending their kids to school or if they want them to go to school fully-online. Even though the deadline for parents to make that decision was last week, the district is reopening that window to let room for changes.

The school board will make the decision on whether or not to postpone the start of the school year in a meeting on Monday, August 10.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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