Uptick in district COVID-19 quarantines follows Iowa City students’ return to on-site learning

Nearly a month after over 600 students returned to entirely on-site learning, the Iowa City Community School District sees a surge in COVID-19 quarantines.


Jeff Sigmund

North West Junior High school seen on March,9 2021.

Grace Hamilton, News Reporter

The Iowa City Community School District is experiencing a spike in students and staff needing to quarantine for exposure to COVID-19 after a month of optional 100 percent on-site schooling.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the district scrapped its hybrid learning model and adopted an entirely in-person model after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill requiring a full-time on-site schooling option.

Last updated on Wednesday, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 14 confirmed student cases and 72 presumed positive student cases. One hundred sixty-one of the district’s 331 student quarantines come from Northwest Junior High School.

The dashboard shows that 286 of current student quarantines are spread across six of the district’s 31 schools. If a school has fewer than 10 students in quarantine, exact building-to-building quarantine numbers are not available on the dashboard.

Five Iowa City teachers have tested positive for COVID-19, and four classrooms are currently closed.

Speaking on behalf of the district, ICCSD’s Community Relations Director Kristin Pederson wrote in an email to the DI that the district has made satisfactory vaccination distribution progress.

“We have accomplished a significant step in the vaccination process of our staff with nearly 2,000 employees who have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Pederson said. “Second doses are scheduled to be completed by the end of March. We are grateful to [Johnson County Public Health] and [University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics] for their partnership in the vaccination process.”

Although some parents question the safety of returning on-site, Iowa City schools parent Nathan Peterson says that in-person learning is the best option for his child.

“I think the risk to students was sort of overblown, to begin with,” Peterson said. “I don’t think the school district is doing anything wrong or that they aren’t doing enough to mitigate as they should according to CDC Guidelines … But it’s pretty clear that [COVID-19 poses] a low risk to most students.”

As of Dec. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report most children and teens who contract COVID-19 rarely become sick with severe symptoms.

Peterson said if the district’s contact-tracing proves transmission occurs in schools at high rates and positivity rates increase, his views will change on in-person learning.

“For me to change my mind from my initial position, I would want to know — and I couldn’t give you an exact threshold — if the rates of transmission were happening in school at like 10 percent or something like that. Then, I’d start to ask more questions about whether we should be keeping students on-site,” he said. “However, I don’t think the data shows that.”

Although COVID-19 cases at Iowa City High School have not noticeably increased, City High senior Lilly Reynolds said she hopes cases decline so she can enjoy typical graduation festivities.

“A lot of my peers and I want to see if there’s something that can be done for prom and graduation,” Reynolds said. “I think everyone’s trying to be compliant for the future stuff that upperclassmen look forward to, and most of us missed out on last year.”