CENTERVILLE — Students in grades 6-12 will return to regular in-person learning on Monday in the Centerville Community School District. The move comes nearly two months after the district switched those grades to a hybrid model in response to COVID-19 case growth.

Since the switch in September, the community’s 14-day positivity rate for the coronavirus has declined to 6.7%, as of Tuesday. This is below the 15% threshold set by Gov. Kim Reynolds for districts to be eligible for waivers to limit in-person schooling but still above the 5% threshold experts indicates significant community spread.

On Sept. 4, the first day of instruction under the hybrid model, Appanoose County had 18 active cases according to state data. As of Tuesday, the county had 80 active cases.

A hybrid model of instruction splits the student body into two groups. One group attends class in person two days a week, the other group attends on a different two days. When not in school, students are expected to complete work digitally.

In explaining the district’s decision, Superintendent Tom Rubel said the decline in positivity rate coupled with some struggling students was the reason for the change.

“It has gone relatively well for some households and some students that have adapted well to the hybrid,” he said. “There have been significant other families as well as students that remote hasn’t gone very well at all.”

With going back to on-site, face-to-face learning on Monday, the district will also begin requiring the use of face masks for students and staff members.

“My opinion is that we have a seen a far greater emphasis in the last … 45 to 60 days in terms of more scientists and more medical folks saying, ‘Get a mask on,’” Rubel said.

The district will continue its attempts to ensure social distancing, monitor student’s health, and encourage good hygiene to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The mask mandate also comes in response to quarantine guidance released in late September. The guidance says the state no longer recommends a 14-day quarantine for those who come into contact with a COVID-19 positive person as long as both people were properly wearing masks.

Terri Schofield, Principal of Lakeview Elementary School, said the building has about 22 students home without symptoms because they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 that wasn’t wearing a mask.

In this school year, Rubel said that out of students and staff combined at the district, 19 have tested positive for COVID-19.

In other news:

— Rubel said the district plans to sell the former Central Elementary School. The district vacated the building, as the grades were moved to Lakeview Elementary School as part of a consolidation plan. He also said the district will only sell the property to someone or an entity they feel can make good use of the building.

— Activities Director Rich Parker said masks will be mandated at all winter sports events in the South Central Conference this year. Winter sports are more challenging, he said, because the events are played indoors instead of outside. The mandate applies to fans, players on the bench, coaches, and cheerleaders. Some questions remain on how quarantines will be handled for teams that play another team with a positive COVID-19 test.

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.

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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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