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School district officials lay out COVID-19 plans

T-R FILE PHOTO Unlike this photo, taken in September 2019 in front of the Marshalltown High School, the 2020-21 school year will look different for students. Masks will be worn and social distancing will be maintained as district officials make plans for how students will travel between classes, load onto buses, where they eat lunches and more.

School begins for Marshalltown Community School District students on Tuesday.

With some school districts in Iowa already seeing positive cases of COVID-19, the Marshalltown district issued a statement Tuesday through Communications Director Adam Sodders on what will happen in the event of a positive case.

Communication will be provided as soon as possible to patrons in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in schools. If a case is found, there will be an investigation to do contact tracing. Anyone determined to have been within a 6-foot radius for 15 or more minutes would be considered a close contact.

Families will receive an email from the principal if their child was potentially exposed to a person identified as COVID-19 positive. If a student is determined to have been in close contact of a COVID-19 positive person, that student’s family will receive a phone call from the school nurse explaining the necessary steps to effectively quarantine.

If a student must quarantine, schoolwork will be accessible online through digital platforms. Marshall County Public Health nurse Pat Thompson will also call parents to provide additional information and guidance for students who must quarantine from school.

Each building has its own Health Response Team formed of administrators, nurses, counselors and social resource specialists who will work in collaboration with Thompson.

Outside of positive COVID-19 scenarios, Director of Instruction Lisa Stevenson provided information on what the 2020-21 school year will look like:

1) Will lockers be used?

No, lockers will not be used.

2) How will traveling between class periods be handled?

The social distancing measures we are putting in place include having one-way traffic through school building hallways. We are placing signage in the hallways with information on which direction to travel. We will also have staggered hallway traffic whenever possible.

3) How will students be seated on buses?

Students and transportation staff will be required to wear face coverings on the bus and while loading and unloading. Hand sanitizer will be available and students will be separated by at least 3 feet and will not share seats unless they are family members.

4) What will loading and unloading kids off buses/dropping kids off and picking them up at the beginning and end of each day look like?

Students will wear a face covering while loading on to the bus, riding the bus, and departing from the bus. The Transportation Department is finalizing plans for pick-up and drop-off details for families. District families with students who use school buses can expect to receive those details very soon.

5) What will lunch look like?

Students will be eating lunch in the classrooms and/or outside at almost all grade levels. In some cases, meals will be delivered to the classroom. In some cases, the students will come to the cafeteria to pick up their meal, and then they will take it to an alternate location to eat, either inside or outside, in order to maintain social distancing.

6) In the hybrid learning buildings — will those students still receive meals from the school on days when they are home?

Yes, we will have meals available for students in both the fully virtual and hybrid learning models. We are putting together more information on how those meals will be served. Families can expect to receive that information this week.

7) What scenarios will trigger the move to all online learning?

We are continuing to watch the rates of positive cases and will respond appropriately given state guidance and input from Marshall County Public Health. The current guidance from the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health states that a 20-percent 14-day rolling positivity rate in the county and a 10 percent virus or illness-related absenteeism rate qualifies a school district to request state consideration of the building or district moving to fully virtual learning for up to two weeks.

8) If all online is enforced, how much warning will parents receive? And what course of action will they have to take?

We will update district parents as soon as possible if a decision is made to move classes to a fully virtual learning model. Parents can expect to be notified of any such decision through email.

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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