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North-Central Iowa School District To Do Online Learning For One Week Because Of COVID-19

About 15 percent of students and one-third of the staff at the Eagle Grove Community School District are in quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus.

A north-central Iowa school district will move to virtual learning on Monday for one week after canceling classes Thursday and Friday because of a growing number of staff and students in quarantine.

Nearly 150 students and more than 30 staff from the Eagle Grove Community School District in Wright County are quarantining after being exposed to the coronavirus, according to Superintendent Jess Toliver. That’s about 15 percent of students and one-third of the staff.

“We’re running out of staff that we can put in front of kids,” Toliver said. “What we can do though is have our staff teach remotely.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation requires schools to conduct at least 50 percent of their learning in-person. Toliver said his school district has been doing in-person classes five days a week, so it can move all students to virtual learning for one week of school and still meet the threshold.

“What this is allowing us to do is get our kids away from each other, get our staff away from each other, prepare to go virtual on Monday,” Toliver said, “Monday, we will go virtual for a week and then we will come back with our kids as long as the exposures do not keep happening.”

Toliver said the district knows that not everyone has a solid internet connection, so staff came up with a solution for virtual learning.

“We are opening up our schools to where they will have gymnasiums open where kids can come and work at a site as long as they're not quarantined,” Toliver said. “They can work in there and have a good internet connection to receive their instruction.”

Toliver said the district is waiting for additional test results to come back from a Wednesday pop-up test clinic. School officials will decide next week if they will request a two-week waiver from the state to continue virtual learning. Wright County has a 14-day positivity rate of 9.8 percent as of Thursday afternoon, which is lower than the state’s criteria to consider a two-week switch to virtual learning. But Toliver said Eagle Grove is seeing a higher rate of new cases than the county.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.