In just over a week, we will welcome students back for the 2021-2022 school year. We know that this is a time of both great excitement and anxiety as our community is still feeling the effects of COVID-19. Our goal remains to create a safe learning environment for students and staff, while also ensuring a high-quality, vibrant educational experience.
As we begin the year, there is a great deal of information available from a variety of sources regarding COVID-19 and its impact on our community.
Without consistent guidance from the federal, state and local level, it is impossible for the district to align with all guidance provided from each of these agencies.
Recognizing that guidance is inconsistent, we strongly recommend all families review the latest from each agency (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health) in order to make the most informed decision you can regarding personal mitigation efforts as we start the year.
Below is an update on the latest information available regarding COVID-19 in the Dubuque community and an overview of mitigation efforts that will be in place as we begin the school year.
We have worked to compile answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding mitigation efforts as we begin the year. While this message is lengthy, we ask that you please take the time to read it completely.
As we have throughout the past 15 months, we will continue to monitor the situation throughout the year and will adjust accordingly based on current COVID-19 transmission, guidance from health agencies and within the parameters of the law.
Given the current COVID-19 situation, we recognize that some families may wish to change their student’s enrollment between the in-person and virtual program. If you wish to enroll your student in the virtual learning program, or move from the virtual program to in-person learning, please email firstname.lastname@example.org NO LATER THAN Wednesday, Aug. 18, and include your name, your student’s name, and your student’s school, as well as the move you wish to make.
We are thankful for your ongoing support of our students and staff – and we are confident that we will work together as we have in the past to make this school year great!
The Iowa Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Dubuque County Incident Management Team all recommend vaccination for those eligible as the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 illness and stop the spread.
Currently, individuals 12 years of age and older are eligible to be vaccinated. Vaccinations are widely available from healthcare providers, pharmacies and walk-in vaccination clinics. Visit the DUBUQUE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT SLEEVES UP WEBPAGE for the most up-to-date times and locations for vaccination sites.
VACCINATION STATUS OF INDIVIDUALS
Iowa law specifically prohibits schools from asking students, staff or visitors for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Given this, it is not possible for the district to facilitate requests for students to be placed in classrooms with only vaccinated students or staff members.
MASKS AT SCHOOL
The latest guidance from the CDC and the Dubuque County Board of Health recommends universal indoor masking for all preK-12 students, staff and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. As the school year begins, we recognize that many students and staff will choose to wear masks to school based on CDC guidance, and we are supportive of this choice. We will also support those families who choose to not have their student wear a mask to school. Iowa specifically prohibits school districts from requiring masks to be worn by students, staff or visitors at school.
MASKS ON BUSES
At this time, masks will be required on all school buses per the federal requirement to do so. This was reaffirmed in the Iowa Department of Public Health “COVID-19 and K-12 School Update for Fall 2021” guidance, which states:
“Does the CDC mask order for public transportation apply to school buses?
Yes. The CDC issued an Order effective February 1, 2021, imposing a requirement for persons to wear masks while on public transportation conveyances, and in its Frequently Asked Questions document accompanying the Order the CDC indicates that “passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in the CDC’s Order.”
COVID-19 ILLNESS GUIDELINES
Staying home when ill is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of all illnesses, including COVID-19.
Individuals with a temperature of 100.4 F or higher should always stay home until fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.
As was our practice at the end of last school year, individuals with ANY high-risk COVID-19 symptom or TWO OR MORE low-risk COVID-19 symptoms should stay home, or will be sent home, from school and should consult a healthcare provider.
- If the individual receives an alternative diagnosis by a licensed medical healthcare provider, they will be asked to provide documentation to the school and can return when they are fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved.
- If the individual receives and provides proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, they can return to school when symptoms have improved and the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. No-cost at-home COVID-19 test kits (provided by Test Iowa) are available from your school nurse or at a variety of testing sites throughout the community.
- If the individual does not receive an evaluation by a licensed medical healthcare provider or a negative test result, they will be instructed to self-isolate for 10 days.
Symptomatic individuals awaiting COVID-19 test results SHOULD NOT come to school until they receive results of the test.
COVID-19 POSITIVE CASE / ISOLATION GUIDELINES
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be instructed to self-isolate for 10 calendar days following the onset of symptoms OR 10 calendar days from the date the positive test was administered if the individual is asymptomatic. Individuals may return to school when ALL THREE of the following are true:
- fever free for 24 hours (one full day) without fever-reducing medication.
- symptoms have improved OR continue to have no symptoms if asymptomatic.
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared OR 10 days since the date the positive test was administered if asymptomatic.
CONTACT TRACING AND CASE NOTIFICATION
At this time, the State of Iowa is not conducting case reporting or contact tracing outside of special circumstances involving suspected outbreaks or vulnerable populations.
The Dubuque County Health Department / Visiting Nurse Association will continue to conduct contact tracing of positive cases received from the Iowa Department of Public Health when Dubuque County is in the “substantial” or “high” transmission rate as defined by the CDC.
When the district is notified of a positive COVID-19 case, parents/guardians and staff will be notified if meeting the definition of being a close contact with the positive case.
EXPOSURE AND QUARANTINE GUIDELINES
Fully Vaccinated: All students and staff who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 DO NOT need to quarantine if exposed to an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, unless they begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals should continue to monitor for symptoms and contact their healthcare provider if symptoms develop.
Unvaccinated: Unvaccinated household contacts to a positive COVID-19 case should self-quarantine for 10 days from the last exposure. If an individual remains asymptomatic and tests negative for COVID-19 five days or more following exposure, they can end quarantine after seven days.
Unvaccinated non-household close contacts should continue to monitor for symptoms for 10 days following the last exposure. The decision to quarantine will be at parent/guardian discretion.
Previous Positives: An individual who has had COVID-19 within the previous three months, has recovered, and remains asymptomatic, does not need to quarantine if they are a close contact to a positive case.
Any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 should follow the appropriate isolation protocol for positive cases.
While the ability to physically distance is limited by space and enrollment constraints, we will configure classrooms, lunchrooms, buses and other common spaces to maximize distance to the extent possible.
In addition to normal lunch seating, schools will also offer a socially distanced seating option to allow for additional space for those requesting it.
Schools will use outdoor spaces for additional learning as feasible and as weather allows.
Enhanced cleaning protocols initiated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will be maintained throughout the school year. This includes:
- conducting a deep cleaning by custodians of each school nightly using hospital-grade disinfectant that can have a residual effect of up to 24 hours.
- increasing frequency of daytime cleaning by custodians of common-touch surfaces including handrails, door handles, etc., using hospital-grade disinfectant.
- increasing frequency of restroom checks to ensure hand soap and paper towels remain available.
- maintaining adequate inventory of building cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
- regularly inspecting ventilation and air handling systems to ensure normal operation.
- all school buses deep cleaned nightly using hospital-grade disinfectant that can have a residual effect of up to 24 hours.
- increase ventilation on school buses by having windows down unless it is raining.
The district will continue to promote hand washing and use of hand sanitizer in all district facilities. Hand sanitizer will be provided at entrances to all district facilities, as well as all classrooms, office areas, etc., as well as on school buses.
Schools will continue to support parents/guardians who need to complete business related to their student in person. These visits will generally be limited to the appropriate office area and for the shortest duration possible.
As the school year begins, volunteers (including parents) and non-parent/guardian visitors to school will not be permitted, except those organizations providing a service for students at the request of the district or as part of a contracted agreement.
This protocol will be in effect until October 1 and may be reduced or extended at that time.
COVID-19 INFORMATION AND TRANSMISSION DATA
There are a number of sources that track COVID-19 data for Dubuque County:
- Dubuque County Health Department: The latest updates from the Dubuque County Incident Management Team regarding COVID-19 impact and response efforts in Dubuque County.
- CDC COVID Data Tracker: This tool tracks transmission data across the county based on the total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and the percentage of tests that are positive during the past seven days.
- Iowa Department of Public Health COVID Dashboard (Summary Statistics): This page includes a state-level dashboard of COVID-19 activity in the state.
- Iowa Department of Public Health COVID Positive Case Analysis: This page looks at the positive case counts across the state and by county.