While the school administrators had nothing but praise for the students, staff and parents as the 2020-2021 school year got underway Tuesday, Sept. 8, the district has already needed to put some students in a 14-day quarantine.
During Monday’s Waterloo School Board meeting, District Administrator Brian Henning said a staff member had tested positive for coronavirus and will need to quarantine before returning to work. Several people who have regular contact with the staff member needed to be quarantined.
The board reaffirmed its COVID-19 illness and return to school policy, which was created by district nurse Sarah Borchert, Fort HealthCare and the Jefferson County Health Department.
A student may be sent home from school if it exhibits one of the following symptoms: fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher; cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing; new loss of smell or taste; vomiting/nausea; diarrhea. Children may also be sent home if they have two of the following symptoms: headache, stomachache; sore throat; muscle or body aches; tired/fatigue; congestion or runny nose.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, students cannot return to school until the following actions are take: call a health care provider for guidance and if the child is diagnosed with a viral illness such as strep throat, flu or norovirus, provide the school office with a health care provider’s note stating when the child can return to school.
If the family chooses to have the child receive a COVID-19 test. If the test is negative, the student may return to school as long as they no longer exhibit symptoms. In the case of a positive test, the student needs to stay home for 10 calendar days after the child’s first symptom appeared. They may return to school after that time if they are fever free and other symptoms have improved.
In the case parents choose not to have the student tested for coronavirus, the child will not be allowed back in school for 10 calendar days after the date of their first symptoms. Much like those who test positive for the virus, the student may return to school after they are fever free and other symptoms have improved.
Students who are not diagnosed with COVID-19 will need to shift to virtual learning until they are allowed back to school.
Henning pointed out the district cannot require parents to get their child tested for coronavirus, even if the student is exhibiting symptoms.
“The ownership is put on the parents to do the right thing,” he said.
Henning also pointed out the Waterloo School District is going beyond what many districts are doing with regular temperature checks.
Board member Kate Lewandowski did bring forward some concerns of parents and herself of when parents are notified of coronavirus cases. She read an email from a parent who wanted to know why only people who have been in close contact with a student were notified to quarantine instead of the entire classroom.
The parent said families should have all of the information to determine if it would like to have their child switch to virtual education.
Henning pointed out the notification policy had come before the board three prior times.
“I’m doing what the board wanted me to do in terms of notification,” he said.
The board agreed to not make any changes to its coronavirus notification policy.
Outside of the single COVID-19 diagnosis in the district, the start of the school year is going well.
Elementary school principal Elizabeth Gould said there are some “very happy little learners” on the first day of school, except for a few 4-year-old kindergarten students who were a bit reluctant to leave their parents.
“You can’t see their smiles, but you can see it in their eyes that they’re excited to see their teachers and their classmates,” she said.
Gould said the students have been wearing their masks and learning to walk, sit and eat at a distance from one another while still being able to socialize.
Intermediate/middle school principal Shawn Bartelt said the students in grades 5-8 are respecting the school’s procedures on masking, social distancing, hand washing, etc.
“There have been minimal true complaints about the new measures,” he said.
High school principal Brad Donner and pupil services director Victoria Kalscheur also noted the start of the year has been going well.
“I feel like staff and administration went the extra mile to make people feel comfortable and happy,” Henning said. “This has been more work for teachers and to say they are doing twice as much work is an understatement.”