ICCSD asks the state for permission to go all online due to COVID-19 surge in Johnson County

Iowa City Community School District — Adam Burke/Little Village

The Iowa City Community School District has submitted a request to the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) to move to all online instruction for two weeks due to the surge in new cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County. In an email to district families, Interim Superintendent Matt Degner said the request had the support of both the district’s Board of Directors and the Johnson County Department of Public Health.

In its submission to DOE, ICCSD cited a 14-day positivity average in its COVID-19 tests of 13.3 percent, as measured by the Iowa Department of Public Health. This is short of the 15 percent 14-day average that DOE established as a benchmark for offering less than 50 percent in-person instruction. But as of noon on Monday, IDPH’s official 14-day positivity average for Johnson County was 15.1 percent.

According to the ICCSD COVID-19 dashboard, the district currently has 95 students and 20 staff members with confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19. The district also has 371 students and 65 staff members self-quarantining due to exposure to the virus.

Even though the 15.1 percent 14-day positivity average far exceeds the 10 percent positivity rate threshold that the district gave itself — the IDPH 14-day average has been above 10 percent since Nov. 4 — Degner stressed in his email that no decision has been made yet about whether to go all online.

“The Board of Directors will discuss these developments and determine the next steps during their Board Meeting at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, November 10, 2020,” Degner said. That meeting will be held via Zoom, and the public will be able to watch.

“The health of our school district community remains the primary focus in our decision-making,” Degner said. “We will continue to be transparent throughout this process and communicate with you as soon as we have additional information.”

In late August, DOE granted ICCSD permission to begin the school year with all online instruction following the surge of COVID-19 cases in Johnson County that began in July. That was the district’s second application to DOE. One made at the beginning of August was rejected for because the county had not yet met the 15 percent positivity average DOE requires.

On Sunday, the Clear Creek-Amana School District, which covers parts of Johnson and Iowa Counties, announced it was moving to all online instruction for students on Monday and Tuesday, as it applied to DOE for permission to go all online for two weeks. In a statement, the district said it made the decision because of “a significant increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our area” which “has directly affected our transportation department.”

According to IDPH, Iowa County’s 14-day average positivity rate is 18.7 percent.

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