Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Washington schools Superintendent Willie Stone announced the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plans the approaching school year at a school board meeting Wednesday night.
Stone outlined the district’s guidelines at the meeting before releasing them to parents and students. While the rules are extensive, Stone said the schools were prepared to adapt.
“All of this comes with the warning that if things start changing rapidly, then we’re going to change rapidly to meet the needs of our students,” he said.
The first day of classes is Monday, Aug. 23.
Two mask policies
Due to a state law passed in May, the district cannot require masks in class.
“Masks are optional during the school day,” Stone said. “If your child wants to wear a mask, they’ll need to provide their own.”
District officials say that law is overruled on buses, however, by an executive order from President Joe Biden requiring masks on public transit, a rule the district interprets as applying to school transportation.
“On the school bus, they are required to wear the mask because of the executive order,” Stone said. “We ask that you provide a mask your child would like to wear, but also would have some for students who forgot.”
Vigilance is key
Stone said the district could no longer provide a virtual learning option but would do its best to keep options on the table for students unwilling to return to in-person classes.
“Since the pandemic response is over, according to our governor, we will not be providing a virtual option for K-12,” he said. “If you need a different option, you can still enroll in our home-school assistance program.”
Stone said the change should not surprise many and had been more or less expected.
“We made all sorts of calls to parents at the end of the year last year to let them know that the virtual option likely wouldn’t be available this year,” he said.
To control risks, Stone said the district would continue to encourage families to err on the side of caution for sick days.
“Like last year, if your child is sick or has a fever, it is important that you keep them home, and we recommend that you have them tested,” he said.
The superintendent encouraged parents to communicate the details of their children's’ illness with the schools.
“We are not contact tracing anymore, but if we have several students sick in one class, it will be important to know the reason why,” he said. “Let’s say we have four kids show up in one class with COVID. We’re not required to, but that’s a time where we may call parents and say, ‘Hey, we just want to give you a heads up.’”
While its options are limited, Stone said the awareness was still important.
“We’re just trying to stay on top of that as best as possible,” he said. “Our hands are somewhat tied with what we can do.”
Stone said the district would maintain its cleaning regimen from last school year.
“Students will be required to wash in and wash out,” he said. “We will also continue to fog our buildings. It’s the same cleaning solution we use for all our classrooms, it just puts it in a mist so that we’re able to get into the crevices that we can’t get with a rag.”
Stone explained that the spray cleaning was safe, despite community concerns.
“I’ve had a couple people worried about what’s in it,” he said. “It’s the same solution that restaurants use to clean the table you eat off. It’s something that’s safe, it’s something that’s good for keeping our kids healthy.”
One long casualty of sanitation concerns will be drinking fountains.
“Water fountains will remain off and filling stations will be available,” Stone said. “We’ll have cups at the elementary buildings … and then middle school and high school, most of them already have their own bottle that they bring.”
Public health communication
Stone said the district had received approval to provide lunches free of charge to all students this school year.
“Unless things change, this year there’s really not going to be a lot of communication between the school and the Iowa Department of Public Health or local public health agencies,” he said.
Still, the district plans to touch base with public health agencies as needed.
“There’s not requirements for them to call us or us to call them,” Stone said. “We’ll still try to keep in contact, but it won’t be as much as we did last year.”