SIOUX CITY -- Ten days after the first shift to classroom learning due to reported positive cases of the novel coronavirus, classrooms in six more Sioux City elementary schools are moving from in-person to online learning.
The five school buildings with impacted classrooms are spread throughout the city. They include a fifth grade and multi-grade specialty class at Liberty, fifth grade in Irving, a multi-grade class in Loess Hills, a multi-grade class at Riverside and a fifth grade section at Sunnyside, according a news release Friday from the district.
In its weekly summary of COVID-19 cases, the district also disclosed Friday that 15 of its 22 school buildings had at least positive test for the virus. The list includes all three middle schools and two of the three high schools, East and West. The impacted schools also include Clark, Hunt, Morningside, Perry Creek and Unity elementary schools.
For the week ended Friday, nine students and 17 employees tested positive, according to the district's website. In addition to the school buildings, positive cases also were recorded in the district's administrative headquarters downtown and in its central maintenance building.
The implementation of the district's emergency plan for the classrooms in the six elementary schools came as the average rate of positive tests for the virus in Woodbury County climbed to 14.8 percent on Friday. That nearly matches the minimum 15 percent rate established by the Iowa Department of Education in which school districts can ask to move entire school buildings from in-person to 100 percent virtual learning. Except in those instances, the state requires districts to offer at least 50 percent of instruction in-person.
Back on Sept. 9, a classroom of Sioux City second grade students was moved from in-school to online learning, after several pupils in the Nodland Elementary School tested positive for the novel coronavirus or exhibited symptoms of the virus. The initial plan was for the Nodland students to return to school on Sept. 23.
In a statement to the Journal, Sioux City School Board President Jeremy Saint said board members are keeping a close eye on the 14-day rolling average of cases.
"I’m not sure that we are to a point where the board needs to consider a change in our district-wide response. However, we need to continue to follow through on the commitment to safety that we adopted in our Return-to-Learn Plan, continue to monitor the situation closely and remain flexible to make changes to our response quickly if needed," Saint said.
Saint said the most recent data shows cases in schools are a small percentage compared to the overall community rate, and there is not a concentration of cases in any one area.
The district is continuing the Friday practice of releasing the number of positive cases determined within the district over each week.
Last week, the report was that four students and four staff members in the district had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In the first week, two employees tested positive, and the second week the results showed five pupils and seven staffers tested positive.
The district continues to take steps such as extensive cleaning and sanitizing places that are heavily used in buildings.
Two more people have died from COVID-19 in the metro area, as the deaths of the Woodbury County residents were reported Friday.
According to the Siouxland District Health Department, the two people who died were women older than 80 years old. The county's death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 61.
The county also reported 61 new positive test cases of the novel coronavirus Friday. Overall, there have been 4,850 cases in Woodbury County.
Cases have climbed more sharply in recent days in Woodbury and Dakota counties. Thursday marked the largest single-day Woodbury County increase in some time with 87 new positive cases reported.
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