District Covid-Related Absences
To better inform our decision making and be as transparent as possible regarding Covid 19 in our schools, we will again have a Covid 19 dashboard regarding Covid related absences in our schools. Unlike last year, we will not have access to student Covid positive data confirmed by Wapello County Public Health, which allowed for timely and accurate reporting of positive cases of Covid 19. Instead, we will gather data from parent reporting of Covid related absences, including positive Covid test, waiting on a Covid test, parent choice quarantine for close exposure, and parent reporting of Covid-like symptoms requiring 10 day isolation. This data will be reported weekly on Friday and represent the average daily absences in the district related to Covid 19. We understand that this data is not as accurate or specific as what we reported last year, but with changes in quarantine and contact tracing expectations from IDPH, this represents the best data we have to work with for public reporting.
2021-22 COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ottumwa doing COVID-19 mitigation this year?
Yes. Ottumwa schools will continue to implement allowable mitigation measures under Iowa Regulations. For 2021-22 school year, we will continue to have additional nurse and health staff, deep clean our buildings, maintain hand sanitizing stations, and encourage mask wearing for adults and students.
Will Ottumwa require masks or face coverings this year?
Due to a law (HF847) signed near the end of last school year, Iowa schools cannot have mask mandates. Ottumwa Schools wants to assure our families and staff members that while we can’t mandate wearing masks, we support individual decisions and strongly encourage students and adults to wear masks in our schools, on buses, and at events based on the most current recommendation from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Does my student have to wear a mask on the bus?
At this time, the district highly encourages students to wear masks while riding our school buses to and from school. Masks will be available to any student boarding a school bus and our buses will continue to be disinfected each day. The CDC currently recommends mask wearing as the best tool, outside of vaccinations, to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Are COVID vaccines required for staff and/or students?
No. The CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommend vaccination as a critical component in the strategies to reduce COVID related illness, hospitalizations and deaths, but they are not required for staff of students.
If a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, will they be required to stay home?
Yes. Children and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to stay at home for 10 days after symptoms start or 10 days after a positive test if no symptoms. Students and staff also need to be fever free for 24 hours before returning. This includes anyone 12 and older who is fully vaccinated. Parents should alert the school in the event that their child tests positive for COVID-19. You can find exclusion criteria for COVID-19 and other common illness on the IDPH website at this link Common Childhood Illnesses and Exclusion
Will parents be notified if there is a positive COVID-19 case in a building?
Last year we maintained both a website and email alert system when we could confirm a positive COVID-19 case through public health. We alerted parents and buildings within 24/36 hours of confirmation of a COVID positive case. The IDPH has changed their approach to COVID-19, using the same model they do with influenza. IDPH will not provide contact tracing or issue isolation and quarantine orders for positive or exposed individuals. We will post a weekly update Covid-related absences on our website. Our nurses will continue to alert IDPH if we have instances of >10% absence in a building or district-wide and follow their guidance in the event that happens.
Will my child have to quarantine if they are considered a close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
Iowa Department of Education says schools do not have the authority to quarantine students without the involvement of a public health agency.
Will parents/volunteers be allowed in school buildings?
Ottumwa Schools welcomes parents and volunteers into our buildings. Parents and the community provide support and enrichment to our classrooms and programs. We could not have had as good a year as we had last year without our parents and community support, it is our privilege to have you back in our buildings. We do ask, as always, if you are sick or feverish to remain at home.
Will we have in-person parent teacher meetings?
We are planning on having on site meetings, but will provide parents with a virtual or phone option if they are more comfortable meeting that way.
As we did last year, we will monitor guidance from the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Department of Public health and adjust accordingly as new information becomes available.