OTTUMWA — Two local school districts are taking a wait-and-see approach as they weigh whether classes should be changed to protect students’ safety.
The Ottumwa Community School District, which has no classes Friday and is on spring break next week, is not changing its approach at this time.
“Until the district receives a recommendation from the Iowa Department of Public Health, district attendance polices remain the same,” reads an update on the virus on the district’s website. “Students will be marked ‘unexcused’ for missing school based on concerns regarding the Coronavirus.”
Cardinal School District, which is also beginning spring break, released a statement from Superintendent Joel Pedersen in which he called the situation “uncharted territory.”
“For now, there is no recommendation to close schools in our district by the Iowa Department of Public Health or the Department of Education. As always, we must balance our need to maintain good public health with our need to provide students with the required number of instructional days,” he wrote.
Both districts said they are in regular contact with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Wapello County Public Health. In Ottumwa, district officials are working on the district’s response plan and reviewing the guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in the school.
The Evans Travel Program will continue as planned “since there is currently no travel ban by the CDC in the United States.” Those who feel uncomfortable letting their child travel will be offered a refund for the majority of their costs. Parents are asked to contact Ralph Skinner for additional information on the travel program.
The virus’ spread in the United States has led to a dramatic few days, with most major sports leagues postponing games and some communities banning large gatherings of any sort.
Conditions are not nearly as serious in Iowa at this time. The first cases of the virus were reported last weekend, and the Iowa Department of Public Health on Thursday listed 126 people currently being monitored. There have been 14 confirmed cases in the state, all in Johnson and Pottawattamie counties.
The IDPH said it is normal to be concerned about the virus but said people should remember that the overall risk is currently low.
Health officials at the state and local levels have been consistent with their message in recent days, urging people to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve, washing their hands frequently and well with soap and water, and staying home if they feel sick.