The Sioux City Community School District addressed increasing absences with staff and students due to COVID-19. Even though no official action was taken, Siouxland Public Media's Sheila Brummer has more on the increasing concern with some school leaders when it comes to keeping students and staff safe.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Paul Gausman says some buildings in the district are getting close to moving to virtual learning only.
The state of Iowa allows a school district to move to virtual learning if the 14-day positivity rate exceeds 15% with 10% absentee rates.
Woodbury County’s level is 21.5%. Monday night, school leaders showed an absentee rate of more than 13% with teachers and a student level around 4%. These percentages include all illnesses. Gausman said one school building does have a student absentee rate of 9.6%.
Gausman says some classrooms are already practicing virtual learning to prepare for a move. But, he doesn't favor hybrid learning with students in class two days a week.
“We know the hybrid-instructional model is challenged because its half as much instruction as in person or even the virtual. Virtual is the model that can truly stop the virus. That’s if they isolate when they are home, and no they won’t.”
Board Member Monique Scarlett says some staff and students aren’t following mask guidelines. She say there should be zero tolerance.
She also expressed concern that contract tracing of students by the school district isn’t being done in a timely manner. She prefers a hybrid model.
“We can’t learn when we are 6-feet under. I’m saying this because I have friends and family impacted who didn’t see it coming because they were exposed by others not taking precations. We created three options, so it is an option.”
Board Member Perla Alarcon-Flory, who has also supported moving to hybrid learning in the past, says she is very concerned about teachers and personnel getting stressed out and sick with COVID-19.
A teacher union representative says teachers are overwhelmed, overworked and some face larger class sizes because of staff shortages. This means social distancing isn’t possible. She also says school districts can move to virtual learning with a positivity rate above 20%.