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Eastern Iowa school manages low number of student Covid-19 infections

Published: Nov. 8, 2020 at 5:50 PM CST
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KALONA, Iowa (KCRG) - School districts are facing the challenge of keeping kids healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic and one eastern Iowa school went months with in person classes and zero cases. Just last week, Hillcrest Academy in Kalona learned of three positive students. Hillcrest Academy’s Principal, Dwight Gingerich said the school worked all summer to develop a plan to navigate learning in a pandemic.

“Every class is able to socially distancing in class. If classes were a little too big for a room, we moved it to a different room," he said.

For months, the small private Christian school of 50 high school students managed to keep Covid out of their classrooms. Now, with three students infected for the first time, Ginegrich said the need to stay focused on slowing the spread remains important.

“There is a realization that people outside of school maybe do things different than when they are in school. We are just really imploring our students and parents to keep their eye on that and do the right thing," Gingerich said.

Gingerich said he sends home weekly reminders on Covid precautions. Two students are part of the school’s task force to help add their perspective on preventative measures.

Hillcrest’s small class size allows for social distancing and masks are required. Some students are allowed to eat outside and a plastic barrier divides lunch tables inside. An epidemiologist with the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics said Hillcrest’s model is good, but may not be as easy to achieve in other districts.

“But districts that are also doing a great job and paying attention to all the metrics and may not have the same set up and so the impact may be different," Melanie Wellington, Associate Epidemiologist with UIHC said.

As colder weather nears, Wellington said schools will need to focus on keeping a distance inside. She said the flu may also complicate things as symptoms of the two viruses are similar. Gingerich said an all-online plan is ready, but he plans to improve preventative measures.

“I think there is a temptation when things are going well to let your guard down and I think that we just made a commitment in that this is what we have to do," he said.

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