Centerville School Board

A screenshot of the boardroom camera during an emergency special meeting of the Centerville School Board, via Zoom video conferencing, Tuesday, Sept. 1.

CENTERVILLE — The Centerville Community School District will switch to a hybrid model in some grades, citing positive cases within the student body leading to more than two dozen students in quarantine.

Superintendent Tom Rubel, in an emergency board meeting Tuesday afternoon, said the district learned from the Appanoose County Public Health Department on Friday about two positive cases, both at the high school. Those cases led to about 29 students in quarantine.

The switch to the hybrid model will affect grades 6 through 12, he said. Pre-K through fifth grades are not affected by the district’s change.

The hybrid model will split the student body up to lessen the number of students attending Howar Middle School and Centerville High School at one time.

“If there’s a happy medium, that’s what you should do by keeping kids in school as much as you can,” Rubel said.

Centerville High School Principal Matt Johnson said about 10% of the high school student body is absent from school, either from illness or quarantine. There are multiple pending tests, and just one student testing positive can lead to upward of 20 students being placed into quarantine. Howar Middle School, despite no positive cases, is about at about the same rate due to quarantine and students staying home sick.

The action is similar to what some neighboring districts have gone with, including Albia and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont which have announced hybrid plans this week. Davis County began the year under a hybrid plan.

Virtual instruction components will be required and counted toward the legally-mandated hours that students are to attend each year.

Rubel said the district’s move to a hybrid plan in grades 6-12 would begin on Thursday and will be in effect until Oct. 2.

There will be no school on Wednesday, Sept. 2 to transition into the hybrid model.

Johnson said students in grades 9-12 will be split into two cohorts. One group will attend full 8-period days on Monday and Tuesday, and the other group will attend Thursday and Friday. Wednesday, he said, is scheduled as a workday.

The workday is a day for student study and will present an opportunity for students to connect virtually with teachers as needed for assistance.

Indian Hills Community College classes taught by a Centerville High School teacher would follow the hybrid schedule, he said. Other dual enrollment courses will continue to follow the schedule set by the college.

At Howar Middle School, principal Karen Swanson said their hybrid model is similar. They’ll have two groups of student cohorts, one group going Monday and Tuesday and the other Thursday and Friday with a Wednesday workday. Because of the Labor Day holiday next week, the workday will move to Monday and cohort A will attend school Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

Athletics and extracurricular activities will continue as they have been, with no changes as a result of the switch to a hybrid model.

“I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that,” school board member Mike Thomas said.

Johnson said students in activities are able to space out better at practices than they have been able to during the school day.

“I think we need to do everything that we can to preserve that [activities], and if we don’t we’re doing a disservice to the families and students in our community,” Johnson said, adding that he was speaking as a parent.

Terri Schofield, one of the elementary-level principals at the district, said data doesn’t show a need for grades pre-K through fifth to switch to a hybrid model, right now.

“We are not seeing the high numbers that the other buildings are,” Schofield said.

The difference in movement during the school day also differs across the grade spectrum. Students at the high school move every 55 minutes, Rubel said. With the greater frequency of traffic, each student comes into contact with more students throughout the day.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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