Cedar Rapids school district requests to move to all-online instruction due to COVID-19 surge in Linn County, increase in staff quarantine

Truman Elementary in Cedar Rapids, 441 W Post Road NW. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) applied for a waiver from the Department of Education (DOE) on Tuesday to move to district-wide remote instruction for two weeks. If granted, students would begin remote learning on Thursday.

The request comes as Linn County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The country reported a record-breaking 540 new cases during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. on Monday. The county’s 14-day positivity rate on Monday was 21.7 percent.

A number of school districts across the state in recent days have requested waivers to shift to remote instruction, including the Iowa City Community School District.

Cases in Cedar Rapids are rising faster than any other city in the country, according to the New York Times.

The CRCSD is reporting 21 positive cases of the virus among students and 45 positive cases among staff. A total of 91 students are in quarantine and 69 staff members are in quarantine, according to the district’s dashboard.

The district had already applied for a remote learning waiver for two of its schools. Hoover Elementary began remote instruction on Monday and the district submitted a waiver to move to remote instruction at Johnson STEAM Academy.

In Tuesday’s message to families, Superintendent Noreen Bush brought up how the district’s staff absenteeism rate continues to rise, a concern she also mentioned at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Nearly 6 percent of the district’s total staff population is on leave due to the virus.

“We have an increased number of staff members taking what’s called FCCRA leave, and that’s for whether they’re in quarantine or if they’re infected with a positive case, and that’s about 5.8 percent of our total staff population,” Bush said during the meeting. “Just so you can put that in context, Hoover’s had over 35 percent of their adult population affected.”

The district applied for the full 14 days of remote instruction, meaning in-person instruction for students who selected the option as part of the Return to Learn plan would resume on Monday, Nov. 30, if another waiver is not requested.

Four schools were scheduled to reopen on Nov. 16 after derecho repairs were completed. If the 14-day waiver is granted, then Franklin Middle School, McKinley Middle School, Jefferson High School and Washington High School would reopen after the waiver ends, according to the district.

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