Board meeting report: Feb. 16 the most likely start date for 100% in-person learning model

Alyce Brown, Staff Contributor

The Pleasant Valley school board discussed a likely Feb. 16 return to all in-person school at their Jan. 28 board meeting. Superintendent Brian Strusz originally asked state legislators if PV’s high school level could start the new model at a later date, but requests thus far have been denied and all indications say there will not be a staggered start.

Distancing is a concern of the board for this new learning model, with Strusz saying that, “at max most places will probably be three foot social distancing, at times less than three foot social distance.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health says a masked person within three feet of a case is only required to quarantine if they begin to show symptoms. The most updated CDC guidelines, however, still advise that anyone within six feet of a case for more than 15 minutes should quarantine, regardless of whether masks were worn.

Lunch is one time of the day that the board is still figuring out how to navigate. Strusz said in the meeting that the theater is currently being considered as a place to socially distance extra high school students during lunch, adding that that “may change between now and Feb. 16.”

Switching to quarantine prevalence, the board reported that roughly 30% of high school students have been quarantined at some point this year, with junior high being about the same and elementary being about 25%. (That statistic does not account for the fact that some students have been quarantined more than once).

Cases have been decreasing throughout the district for the past couple months, with 13 confirmed district cases this week and 45 people in quarantine. There is still, however, a large problem with an absence of aids, with the daily absence rate of aids in the district being 12.52. The district is actively looking for more aids.

As a precaution for the new learning model, all teachers and district staff that would like the Moderna vaccine will be receiving their first dose on either Feb. 5, 6, 12, or 13. Their immunity to the virus will come after their second dose in March. 

Multiple other precautions and changes are coming. For band students, instrument-specific masks were recently ordered by the district to be worn while playing their instruments, and for all high school and junior high students, a program called “LanSchool” was recently purchased that will allow teachers to monitor what each student is doing on their school Chromebook.

The next school board meeting will be held at 6 pm on Monday, Feb. 8 at the district’s Belmont office, and will also be live-streamed.