SIoux CIty Community School District

Siouxland Public Media/Mary Hartnett

COVID-19 safety in schools was the focus of a news conference that took place this afternoon in front of the Sioux City Public Museum. The event was organized by several local advocacy groups, including the Siouxland COVID Safety Alliance.

Speakers included a doctor with the Siouxland Community Health Center, concerned teachers, citizens, and the Vice President of the Sioux City Community School Board Monique Scarlett.

“Mask all to save all. Mask up to stand up.”

This week on The Exchange, we review some of Siouxland's most important events.

One was the rejection of a mask mandate by the Sioux City School Board. The other event was the groundbreaking on the new Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center.  

We also look forward to changes coming for cities and higher education as we, hopefully, emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in the next few years. And, we get a up-close look at food insecurity in Siouxland.

This week on The Exchange, we take a look at how international events and issues, like the US military pullout from Afghanistan and the resurgance of the coronavirus, are affecting Americans and Siouxland residents.

One week ago, students across the state of Iowa were allowed to attend class without a mask for the first time this school year, after the Governor of Iowa signed a bill into law banning districts from issuing mask mandates.

Community advocate and anti-violence movie producer Cindy Waitt has worked behind the scenes to help with the COVID-19 Pandemic through the Kind World Foundation. 

She talks to Siouxland Public Media about her concerns and a new petition condemning Governor Reynolds and the Legislature.



One week ago, students across the state of Iowa were allowed to attend class without a mask for the first time this school year, after the Governor of Iowa signed a bill into law banning districts from issuing mask mandates.

Community advocate and anti-violence movie producer Cindy Waitt has worked behind the scenes to help with the COVID-19 Pandemic through the Kind World Foundation. 

She talks to Siouxland Public Media about her concerns and a new petition condemning Governor Reynolds and the Legislature.

Students across the state of Iowa went to school yesterday for the first time without the requirement of wearing masks. This also included the Sioux City Community School District where Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer caught up with parents for and against the change.

Early Thursday morning, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law passed by Republican members of the legislature banning cities, counties, and school district form issuing mask mandates.

A majority of students at Perry Creek Elementary lined up for class Thursday morning without their masks.

State of Iowa


Governor Kim Reynolds says Iowa will join a group of Republican-led states ending pandemic-related federal programs that give extra cash to unemployed workers.

Reynolds says the state will end the federal boost, including additional $300-a-week unemployment payments.

Reynolds says benefits are keeping people from returning the work and are hindering the state's economy — a charge echoed by Republican governors in several other states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina.

The benefits will end June 12. 

Associated Press

Health officials in all three Siouxland states have temporary stopped use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, following CDC and FDA recommendations. This move comes after six women experienced severe and rare blood clots, resulting in one death. One case was diagnosed in Nebraska.

Health officials in South Dakota say no adverse cases were reported in nearly 16,000 doses of the J&J vaccine.  More than 78 thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in Iowa.

News release from the state of Nebraska:


Nebraska lawmakers advanced a new, $9.7 billion state budget that includes more money for property tax credits and college scholarships while setting aside $115 million for a possible state prison to ease overcrowding.

The package would cover state expenses for the next two fiscal years, starting on July 1.

It came as some lawmakers warned about a possible economic downturn that hit state revenues, which are currently higher than expected despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Iowa Department of Public Health

The number of people in Iowa who have died of complications of the novel coronavirus reached 5,400 on Tuesday. The Iowa Department of Public Health added 26 more deaths in the past 24-hours, including one more in Woodbury County, for 211 in all.  

The state added more than 600 new cases with 18 more in Woodbury County.

One member of the Sioux City Community School Board says he is concerned about how the school district wants to spend CARES Act Money.

Dan Greenwell says there is too much emphasis put on virtual schooling.

The Sioux City Community School District was awarded more than $20 million in federal emergency relief money due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, the district unveiled a draft budget to the district’s finance committee. Greenwell is part of that group .

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Today, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting another 34 COVID-19 deaths and an additional 804 confirmed cases in the state.

At 10 a.m. today, the state reported 5,067 COVID-19-related deaths, an increase of 34 since yesterday. 

Woodbury County has marked another grim milestone, surpassing 200 COVID-19-related deaths. Today, Siouxland District Health says 201 residents have died from the coronavirus in the county. IDPH data show there have been more than 13, 3oo cases of covid-19 as well. 

Associated Press

Some spots in Iowa and Nebraska are digging out from more than a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service reports 5.7 inches fell at the Sioux Gateway Airport. Current reports show Norfolk, Nebraska with the highest total in Siouxland with more than 7 inches. But, some area only received very little snow.  

Iowa Department of Public Health

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports the deaths of 33 more Iowans from COVID-19, including four more deaths in Woodbury County, for 181 in all. There were more than 1,300 positive test results statewide, and 18 in Woodbury County.

The 14-day test positivity rate for Woodbury County has fallen to 10.5%. That rate still indicates wide community spread.

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 State lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol today. Education, taxation, safety are the top priorities for 2021 Iowa legislature. And today they were Joined  inside by hundreds of anti-mask protestors.

Hundreds of people --- few, if any, of them wearing face coverings --- packed into the Iowa Capitol rotunda today and then into the Senate and House chamber galleries. The were protesting mask-wearing and other public health measures designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sioux City Community Schools

The Sioux City Community School District's weekly coronavirus report shows only one staff member and no students testing positive the first week after winter break.

Two-hundred are out on quarantine. That's down from about 500 at the end of December. 

Class resumed on Monday and students have at least one more week of hybrid learning. 

That’s where they go to school two-days a week.  An update surrounding the learning plan is expected to come Monday night with the next school board meeting.


The Sioux City Community School District released a weekly report on COVID-19 cases and for the first time also listed students and staff in quarantine.

This past week, the report showed four students and six staff members tested positive for the virus.

One multi-grade classroom at North Middle was put into Emergency Response Virtual Learning.


The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Sioux City’s two major medical facilities reached an all-time high on Monday. 

MercyOne and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s are caring for a combined 102 patients, with 72 battling COVID-19 only.  The previous high was in late May when patient levels reached the mid 90s. 

Hospitalizations continued to fall in other parts of Iowa.  However, some health care officials are expressing concern that they may rise again if Thanksgiving gatherings caused additional virus spread as expected.

State of Iowa

House Democrats in Congress lost enough seats in this month's elections that they'll have the smallest majority in more than a century according to the Associated Press.

To find out what happened, the party has already begun a “deep dive” examination, looking at the party’s move farther left on national issues and how they would fix the economy greatly impacted by COVID-19.

Facebook/Siouxland Community Health Center

The Sioux City Community School District reports a decrease of new COVID-19 cases involving students and staff.

Last week were 32 cases; this week - 26, with more staff than students being impacted. (10 students – 16 staff).  New cases were identified in 14 buildings in the district.  

One third grade class at Leeds Elementary was put in emergency response virtual learning.  Last week, there were five classes.

The school district provides an update every Friday and says contract tracing was done in conjunction with Siouxland District Health. 

Siouxland District Health Department

Local health officials say the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Woodbury County is comparable to what we experienced during the height of the pandemic in the spring.  Siouxland District Health released weekly trends today.

In early May, the peak of new cases in one week’s time, totaled 667. Last week, there were 465 new confirmed cases.  That was double the number from the week before and six straight weeks of increases. 

Another family taking part in the Going Viral series is the Marquez family.  They live in Sioux City. Daisy Marquez is the mother of four children.  Two of them, girls, are learning virtually while spending time Girls, Inc.    

Daisy says the Girls, Inc. program has made it easy for her girls to learn distantly.

Six more Sioux City School District classrooms are being moved from in-person to online learning.

That announced comes just ten days after the first shift to classroom learning due to reported positive cases of the Coronavirus.  This afternoon district spokeswoman Mandie Mayo said the impacted classrooms were in five elementary schools, which are widely spread throughout Sioux City.

I asked my daughter Katie what she thought about the hybrid system that was in place in the Sioux City schools.  She found it difficult to feel connected to instructors and other students.  Katie is back now in person at North Middle School.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is allowing bars and night clubs to reopen tomorrow in four of the six counties where they’ve been closed because of high coronavirus rates.

Bars in Polk, Linn, Black Hawk and Dallas counties can reopen at 5:00 pm tomorrow Wednesday. Bars in Story and Johnson counties—the homes of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa—must remain closed for now.

For the past several weeks, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has recommended that Iowa close bars in the majority of Iowa’s 99 counties.

This week on The Exchange, we are introducing a new ongoing project. It's called: Going Viral: Lessons Learned During the Pandemic. We focus on parents, teachers, and children's experiences as students return to school with the Coronavirus still raging in some parts of Iowa. 

Coming up on The Exchange, we hear from newly minted Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris, in an interview with SPM last summer when she visited Sioux City.

Also, we talk with Democratic 4th district Candidate JD Scholten, who goes up against Republican state Senator Randy Feenstra in this falls’ general election. 

Plus, Sioux students go back to school on a hybrid plan, a drought is bearing down on western Iowa counties, and suspect Chinese seeds show up in Siouxland. 

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Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued a disaster proclamation in response to a severe weather system that moved across Iowa and caused widespread damage August 10.

The proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather in Boone, Clinton, Dallas, Johnson, Marshall, and Story counties. The proclamation also activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program, for Dallas, Johnson, Marshall, and Story counties.  

This week on The Exchange, as students, teachers and parents prepare to go back to school after nearly six months interruption becuase of the Coronavirus, we talk with Sioux City Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman. Gausman talks about how the schools will stay safe, and part of that strategy is requiring face masks for everyone. He also discusses contingency plans if the virus does ramp up in Woodbury County.  Some students will learn virtually from home.

Iowa has added 247 new cases of the coronavirus since yesterday,  reported 43,144 cases of the novel coronavirus, and 839 deaths. In Northwest Iowa, Woodbury County has tallied 3,576 cases and 47 deaths.

The Sioux City Community Schools will be back in session on August 25th.  Teachers, parents and students have been wondering about facemask requirements as the coronavirus continues to spread.  Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman says today masks will be required most of the time, with a few exceptions.