Area school districts start releasing virus safety plans for coming school year

Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 8:32 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Parents have started learning what the next school year might look like as schools started to build around the state guidelines that have been released.

In saying that it was going to start treating COVID-19 like the flu, the state of Iowa was going against some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance about schools regarding the pandemic. This includes no mask requirements and no mandatory quarantines for students or staff who were exposed to a positive case.

School districts do have leeway on some mitigation strategies, and parents said they want clarity.

“I’m going to miss my quality time with my daughter, but she wouldn’t answer that question the same way,” Jessie Knoles, a Linn-Mar parent, said.

Knoles’ 7-year old daughter is a Linn-Mar elementary student. That district sent out the plans regarding COVID-19 Friday. Parents will be required to tell the nurse if a student tests positive followed by 10-day isolation. Masks will be required on the bus, but the state banned schools from requiring them in a classroom.

“We like the choice to wear a mask,” Knoles said. “It respects everyone, and we’ve done well with it.”

Linn-Mar said it would continue to social distance to prevent the spread and communicate to parents when someone has tested positive in their child’s classroom. It used Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, which are contrary to those from the CDC, is not requiring exposed staff and students to quarantine. However, if someone in a child’s home gets COVID-19, Linn-Mar said the student’s quarantine could last 24 hours.

“Getting her in a routine is key,” Tracy Donels, a Hiawatha parent and Cedar Rapids teacher, said.

Donels’ daughter was starting first grade at Hiawatha Elementary, and she teaches at Washington High School in the Cedar Rapids School District. The district will be presenting its plan to the board Monday.

“The sooner the better because it allows parents to talk to their kids,” Donels said. “It helps them understand expectations, and just there aren’t any surprises.”

Donels wanted her daughter to wear a mask at school. That was a practice the CDC recommends, and the state’s teachers union wanted districts to be allowed to mandate.

“Last year they asked us as parents if we wanted us to have our kid wear a mask,” Donels said. “I sent an email that said I would like to wear it. They told my daughter that I wanted that, but they couldn’t enforce it.”

Linn-Mar also said it would be giving out free breakfast and lunch to all of its students due to special federal funding.

Volunteers in the Linn-Mar school district will not be allowed into elementary schools because the students were too young to receive a vaccine. Volunteers will be allowed in middle and high schools, however.

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