CENTERVILLE — Teachers and students have quickly adapted to the ever-changing world in COVID-19.

The first day of school in Centerville went off without major issues, administrators of the district reported to the Centerville School Board Monday.

Getting into buildings took longer than normal, as students and staff passed through temperature check screens.

In classrooms, teachers focused on passing along new expectations of their classrooms — adding social distancing, good hygiene and mask guidance to the normal opening day speeches at school.

“We were all really excited to have our students back after missing them for, I believe, 163 days,” said Matt Johnson, principal of Centerville High School. “We put in a lot of work welcoming them. Our procedures for bringing our students into the building, I would say, went off almost flawlessly.”

At Howar Junior High, principal Karen Swanson said students were asked to sit with friends at lunch but keep those same seats moving forward to aid with any contact tracing efforts that may arise throughout the year.

“The start of a school year always has a few hiccups,” Swanson said. “I didn’t know what today was going to bring, but we were very pleased with the outcome.”

For Lakeview Elementary, the school was already going to look different before COVID-19. Monday was the first day that kindergarten and first-grade students joined grades 2nd-5th at the school.

The closure of Central Elementary School bumps the attendance at Lakeview to more than 600 students, said principal Terri Schofield.

Kids generally wore masks on school buses as required, Tim Kaster, the building and transportation director, said.

Some volunteers were on hand and on board buses to hand out masks to students who did not have them, he said.

“Had real good response to kids wearing the masks when they went to get on the bus,” he said.

For those who have been participating in sports, they came to school knowing many of the guidelines in place.

“A lot of the kids have been doing this since June 15,” Rich Parker, activities director, said. “As we went through these last two weeks of practices ... our coaches are doing exactly what they should be doing. Their drills are less than 15 minutes, they keep kids apart, they wear masks when they’re talking to them, they’re hand sanitizing. They’re doing everything they’re asked to do to ensure we keep playing.”

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at 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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