CENTERVILLE — School leaders are learning as they go in the age of COVID-19, Centerville Schools Superintendent Tom Rubel said.

The district continues to move toward a face-to-face start to school in Centerville, starting Aug. 24.

Rubel updated the school board on Monday on the district’s plans, and another parent meeting was planned for Tuesday evening. He also described to the board that administrators are “connected at the hip” with local public health officials to ensure safety.

Rhonda Tisue, a nurse at Appanoose County Public Health, outlined the process of contact tracing in the schools.

As positive tests arise, Tisue will work with the family and begin a contract tracing investigation immediately.

Working in conjunction with a school nurse, Tisue will obtain a classroom seating chart to determine which students were sitting near the student who had tested positive.

In the investigation, Tisue said she’ll be looking for instances where there was close contact, defined as being within 6 feet apart for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

“In a classroom, they may have on one side of the room this kid that has tested positive for COVID-19, so at that point we would look at who sat around that child,” she said. “Once we have decided who those direct contacts are, then they would be directed to quarantine for 14 days. We also encourage they get tested.”

One positive test doesn’t necessarily mean an entire classroom or class would be shut down, depending on the contact tracing. Virtual options would be utilized for students who are quarantined and able to continue schooling.

It could be, as board member Kevin Wiskus asked, that one-half of a classroom could be learning in-person while the other half is learning virtually at one time.

Some students, however, are already starting the school year virtually — an option available to parents under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation.

Teachers have worked to improve the virtual experience for those students who are learning virtually, which would now be required where it was optional in the spring.

Julie Caraccio, the K-1 principal at Centerville, said teachers will be able to video record or live stream lessons and children learning virtually will be able to play them at home to get instruction. The district has compiled several tools over the summer, and learned to make use of some tools already available to staff.

“The focus when we started this plan was social and emotional well-being, and quality of instruction,” Terri Schofield, principal of grades 2-5 in Centerville, said. “The best way to do that is to have them connected to their peers.”

While the normal quarantine period is 14 days, Tisue told the board there are scenarios where a student could be quarantined for closer to a month.

She said she’s already had instances in the county where a person was asymptomatic and tested negative for COVID-19 following an exposure. Then, 10 days into quarantine, begin experiencing symptoms and later test positive for COVID-19, prompting a new quarantine period.

The district will also have temperature checking stations to ensure students with a fever are not present. They are asking families to keep children home when they are sick.

Positive tests for COVID-19 are inevitable, Rubel said.

“One thing that’s really hard to do is take a wide variety of situations that can happen once kids are here, once all of our staff are here,” Rubel said. “We will be foolish to think that we will not have any staff, or not have any kids, to test positive.”

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 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 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 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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