SCCSD Moves to Hybrid Learning After Winter Break and Addresses COVID-19 Reporting Concerns

Dec 15, 2020

Credit Sioux City Community Schools

The Sioux City Community School Board took action to try and slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep students and staff safe.  Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer with a wrap-up of last night’s meeting.

The Sioux City Community School Board unanimously voted Monday night to return to hybrid learning after Winter Break on January 4, 2020. 

The district started the first two-weeks with students either attending class on Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday.

After lengthy and sometimes contentious debate, the board is also requiring school leaders provide more information in reporting COVID-19 numbers.

“We have done a will full act of omission and we haven’t provided that information to the board or to the public.  My recommendation is we start immediately.”

Credit Sioux City Community Schools

That’s Board Member Dan Greenwell, who along with Taylor Goodvin pushed for the move that will track positive rest results, quarantine numbers, absenteeism related to COVID and other illness for students, teachers and personel in direct contact with students, and other staff.

“We get a report that 370-some students tested positive for COVID and oh, by the way that is less than 10% of what we have been reporting.  And, I’m being generous with 10% because I averaged it for three weeks.” 

Credit Dan Greenwell

Greenwell is referring to numbers released to board members prior to Monday night’s meeting.  Every Friday, the school district issues a COVID-19 update showing the number of students and staff members who have tested positive.  That lower is much lower; 113 students and 111 staff members since the start of the school year.

Credit Livestream Snapshot from Board Meeting 12.14.20 (sorry for poor photo quality)

During previous board meetings, Superintendent Paul Gausman has said he believed the number to be much higher.  Here’s what he said in response to critisism about COVID-19 reporting.

“There’s an allegation out there tonight that we know the number and we are just hiding that from you.  

Credit Sioux City Community Schools

We’re not, that we are hiding the number from you and that’s not true.  We can give you more data now than we use to be able to give to you.  Back in the day, when we started you asked to make sure we are being honest with people to report numbers that we know to be true, not just cases we suspect.”

Before the school board voted to move to hybrid learning one teacher and union representative did raise issues surrounding a shortage of personal protective equipment for teachers.

Another, a school counselor from West High, Bernie Scolaro expressed her concerns about school safety.

“COVID does not stop at school entrances like some magnetic force to keep it from entering.”

“There was district employee who died from COVID.  I spent three weeks recovering from COVID and I still have lingering issues.  There is a much younger teacher who was hospitalized and has blood clots in her lungs and for her and her family it is not over.”

Credit Bernie Scolaro

Soclaro is also Past President of the Sioux City Education Association and current Vice President of the Siouxland Uniserv Unit.

The ISEA Iowa COVID Tracker reports an employee of the Sioux City School District is one of half-dozen across the state that have died of complications of the novel coronavirus. 

The next school board meeting is scheduled for January 11th and board members could update the “Return to Learn” plan for students in the Sioux City Community School District.

Siouxland Public Media reached out to the school district for comment on information shared on the Iowa COVID tracker surrounding the death of a school employee due to complications of COVID-19.