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BREAKING: COVID-19

Winterset schools
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COVID-19 in Winterset schools

  • 7 min to read

The Winterset School District had two staff members test positive for COVID-19 last week. These staff members were in non-instructional roles. 

The district has completed contact tracing, and has notified anyone who had been in close contact and potentially exposed, resulting in five people needing to quarantine. 

“We are monitoring the situation and will be adjusting our plans as the pandemic progresses throughout the school year,” said Winterset Superintendent Justin Gross. “Like we have seen within business and industry, as conditions change, so must our plans and processes for how we deal with these changes.” 

Winterset’s Return to Learn Plan

According to the Department of Education’s (DE) Guidance document issued on July 17, schools cannot move to entirely remote learning, and must provide at least half of its instruction in person. 

Exceptions to this are to be made if a parent or guardian chooses remote learning for their child, the DE approves of a temporary move to remote learning for an entire building or district because of public health conditions, the school determines that individual students or classrooms must temporarily move to remote learning, or a school chooses to temporarily move to online learning because of severe weather instead of taking a snow day. 

Winterset has developed its Return to Learn Plan in order to meet these requirements. 

The district chose to use their on-site delivery model for this school year, based on guidance by the DE and a parent survey. This is a full return of students and staff to school buildings, done in buildings with face-to-face delivery of instruction for all students. 

The following mitigation measures are laid out in the district’s Return to Learn Plan, available on their web site at www.winterset.k12.ia.us.

Face coverings

Cloth face masks are recommended, but not required, for all students. Masks are required for all staff unless working in their rooms alone, or in small group sessions with other staff where social distancing can be maintained and approved by building administration. While visitors will be limited, any visitors to the school will be required to wear a mask. 

Masks are required during bus transportation, in the nurse’s office, during vocal music (face shields are sanitized and available in the vocal music rooms), during band as required by the band director, and in other areas situationally as determined by administration for the health and safety of the individuals present. It is the responsibility of the student to secure and launder the mask daily. 

Each staff member is issued two cloth face masks as well as a face shield. Students are required to have a face mask with them while at school, in case they are asked to wear one for their safety and/or the safety of others. Disposable masks are available. 

Temperature checks

Parents are encouraged to check their child’s temperature before they leave for school each day. As always, children should not attend school with a temperature of 100 F or more. 

Students’ temperatures will be checked if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. If the child has a temperature over 100 F, a parent or guardian will be contacted and required to pick the child up. 

Parents need to communicate absences with their child’s school. They are also strongly encouraged to share the following symptoms with the school nurse: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Social distancing

Social distancing is should occur to the extent possible in all areas. Students may be required to wear masks where social distancing is not possible. 

Schedules, passing time, lunches, and recesses are staggered to the extent possible. Students are strongly encouraged to wear a mask during passing times. Lunches are eaten in classrooms; no guests are allowed to come and eat with a student. Lunches may be allowed to be eaten in the cafeteria if social distancing can be established, mixing of cohorts can be limited, and sanitation measures can be implemented to ensure disinfecting of all hard surfaces between each lunch period. 

School arrival procedures and student locations may be altered per building. Congregation in common areas is not allowed. 

Parents and guardians are encouraged to use social distancing when waiting to pick up their children. Parents will not be allowed to enter the building unless they have a prearranged meeting and will be required to wear a mask while they are in the building. 

Contact tracing

Exposure to a positive COVID-19 case is defined as being within 6 feet of a positive case for at least 15 minutes. 

In order to make contact tracing possible, seating charts will be implemented to the extent possible in all areas, and students will be kept in pods or cohorts to the extent possible while in classes. 

Public Health will notify the district if there is a positive case in the school. The superintendent will then notify all parents that a positive case was identified in building “X”. Privacy laws prohibit the district from providing more specific information. Contact tracing will be done and any people who are determined to have been exposed will be notified. 

Parents are strongly encouraged to communicate with the school nurse if their child was exposed to a positive case away from school. 

Sick child at school

Students will be screened by the nurse based on the protocol provided by Public Health. Any student that shows symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent to the nurse and quarantined with a mask on in an isolation room until they can be sent home. 

Parents should then contact the Department of Public Health to determine the next steps for the student and/or parent. Depending on the department’s guidance, a decision will be made on when the student can return to school. If the student has a negative test, they may return after they have been fever-free for three days, and are asymptomatic. Without a test or with a positive test, the student must be asymptomatic for 10 days and fever free for three days without medication. 

Determining the length of quarantine and additional students who may need to be quarantined will be made in conjunction with the Department of Public Health. At present, quarantine is 14 days if it is determined by contact tracing that a student has been exposed. 

Training

All district leaders completed the Health and Safety District Leadership Team Module prior to the return of staff, and all staff completed the Health and Safety Teacher and Staff Module prior to the return of students. 

Students are to be taught health and safety measures such as, but not limited to, frequent hand washing or sanitizing, proper cover for sneezing or coughing, keeping their hands from their faces, and social distancing. Signage is posted in all buildings. 

Sanitation

Sanitation efforts are to take place throughout and after the school day. Hand sanitizer is readily available in all areas, and students are encouraged to bring their own personal small container of hand sanitizer. 

All classrooms are equipped with supplies to wipe down high-touch surfaces throughout the day. 

Teachers and students will be asked to help with sanitizing desks and frequently used items within the classroom at the end of each class and the use of those materials. 

Each building is equipped with ionizers to disinfect rooms, halls, lockers, etc. 

Students are encouraged to bring their own water bottles to school. Water fountain bubblers are turned off, though bottle fillers are on. 

Transportation

Buses are disinfected after each use. 

Masks are required on the bus at all times. If a student forgets theirs, they will be provided a disposable mask that must be worn. 

Parents are encouraged to arrange alternate transportation to and from school for their child if possible to help with social distancing efforts. It is strongly encouraged that parents only use bus transportation for their children if absolutely necessary.

Parents are responsible for taking their child’s temperature before sending them to the bus stop. Any child with a temperature over 100 F should not be sent on the bus or go to school. 

Seating charts are assigned on buses, and an additional adult is assigned to each bus to assist with seating charts and mask compliance. 

If an issue arises with a student complying with transportation protocol, a meeting with the transportation director, building administrator, and parent will be required before the student will be allowed to ride again. 

Other school districts

Madison County’s other two school districts, Earlham and Interstate 35, have not reported any cases since starting classes. 

Earlham

Classes began in Earlham on Aug. 24. The district is providing on-site instruction for all students, unless a change in delivery model is warranted. 

Earlham schools strongly encourage parents and guardians to screen their children, including older, independent children, for signs of illness including symptoms of COVID-19 before going to school every day. This should include checking students’ temperature for a fever, identified as 100.4 F or higher when taken by mouth. 

Students and staff members with any high risk symptoms or two or more low risk symptoms should stay home and are advised to speak with a healthcare provider. 

District protocols for sick students: If a student is sent home with fever, caregivers will need to contact their local provider. If a student has another illness, they can return to the building after being fever-free for 24 hours without medication. If a student or family member tests positive for COVID-19, these results should be communicated to the district office. 

With negative test results and being fever-free without medication for 24 hours, the student may return to the building with a doctor’s note. Positive test results require self-isolation for student and household members. CDC and public health guidelines should be followed. Students may return to the building after they have been fever free for 72 hours, have improved respiratory symptoms, and have passed 10 days since symptoms first appeared. 

Earlham’s Return to Learn Plan can be found at sites.google.com/ecsdcards.com/covid-19-closure-info/return-to-learn-info.

Interstate 35

Interstate 35’s school year began on Aug. 24. The district is utilizing Phase 1 of their Return to Learn Plan, with in-person instruction. 

Like most other districts, Interstate 35 asks that any students exhibiting signs of COVID-19 or other illness stay home. It is recommended that parents or guardians contact their doctor about next steps and possible testing. 

The district requires all students and visitors to the school to wear face masks. Students and staff are provided two masks. If a student cannot wear a mask, the school will work to see if a face shield or face cap (ball cap with a face shield) will work for the student. If a student is deemed unable to wear a face mask or face shield by the administration, the student will have a health screening at the beginning of the day and the school will work to ensure social distancing guidelines. Mask breaks will be taken during the day when social distancing guidelines can be met. 

Interstate 35 is practicing social distancing, and has moved some support teachers around to reduce risk to their elementary class sizes. PK-8 students have been moved in cohort classes that they spend the day with. 

Interstate 35’s Return to Learn Plan can be found on their website at www.roadrunnerpride.org.