Reynolds commends Indianola school’s handling of COVID-19 during first week of classes

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Gov. Kim Reynolds held up the Indianola school district as a success story Tuesday after a COVID-19 case was confirmed in an elementary school there four days into the new school year.

“They did exactly what they needed to do and you know, we know that this is going to be part of the process as long as we have COVID in the state of Iowa,” Reynolds said during her weekly news conference.

The district quarantined its first grade class of about 24 students for two weeks and was beginning online classes for those students Monday, the Des Moines Register reported.

Reynolds said the Indianola superintendent, Art Sathoff, would attend her news conference Thursday to talk about how the district handled the situation.

“And so I think the message that we’ve tried to deliver all along is we have to be fluid and flexible and that’s how (Sathoff’s) addressing it, with moving the class out for 14 days and then continuing, doing the cleaning and bringing them back in at the end,” she said.

Reynolds also said “talks are going well” with school districts that previously had said they would proceed with distance learning despite the governor’s order that requires at least 50% of core classes be offered in person.

“I think actually Urbandale, they have met the criteria, I think Iowa City is getting closer and we’re working with Des Moines Public Schools as well,” Reynolds said.

Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said a key part of the discussions with school districts has been to help them understand what options they have while still complying with the governor’s order.

“Oftentimes, it’s not a full understanding of the options that are available, so when we meet with schools, we work with them on the understanding of what the 50% actually means, what options are available to them within some of the flexibilities that the governor’s proclamation allows,” Lebo said.

Districts can apply for a waiver of the mandate for in-person class offerings if their county exceeds a 15% COVID-19 positivity rate on a two-week rolling average.

As of Tuesday morning, six counties had COVID-19 positivity rates at or above the 15% threshold that allows districts to apply for a waiver of requirements for in-person classes:

Webster and Humboldt counties were the highest in the state at 23%; Lucas and Clarke were at 19%; Shelby, 16% and Franklin, 15%.