January 17, 2021

Return to learn plan requires masks

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Clarke County has entered into the red zone in regards to the number of COVID-19 cases, which means that students will be required to wear masks when school starts back Aug. 24.

Going back to school has been a concern for parents and staff alike since the Governor shut schools down in the spring. Clarke's return to learn plan consists of a brick and mortar model and two contingency plans should cases continue to increase. Masks had been recommended in the plans but not mandated.

The brick and mortar plan means all students and staff back in their respective buildings full time with extra sanitation and physical distancing measures in place. All staff in the buildings including para professionals and AEA staff will have masks or face shields. The school will only provide shields to those district staff members who identify as high risk. The option of Plexiglas barriers between desks is being explored by various teaching staff.

A notice was posted to the Clarke Schools website, clarke.k12.ia.us, July 23 informing parents that their children who return to the brick and mortar school model in the fall will be required to wear masks. The masks will be mandatory while at school and in school vehicles.

"I'm torn about school right now," said Marti Mathes, a Clarke parent of three with two school age children. "They want to require masks, which I understand, but trying to keep a mask on Hadley (4) for 30 minutes at the eye doctor was extremely hard. She has to wear glasses but they fog up and she can't read without them. She's so excited about school and I don't have time to do the virtual school."

Families may choose to have their students learn virtually.  Clarke Community Schools will be providing access to its teachers, instruction and curriculum online. For families wanting to sign their students up for virtual learning contact that student's principal by the end of the day Aug. 17. Students signed up for virtual learning must continue that style of education for a minimum of two weeks.

Now that the CDC and Governor Reynolds have begun recommending mask and Clarke County has been identified as a COVID-19 hot spot in the state the school board had to take some action at their special board meeting July 23 and moved to require masks.

"We were looking for the best possible way to keep both the students and the staff safe," said Superintendent Steve Se id.

According to IDPH, as of Monday there have been a total of 161 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Clarke County and 3 COVID-19 related deaths. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Emergency signs of COVID-19 include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion and bluish lips or face.