Hopes fade to finish school year as virus projected for Iowa peak at end of April



President Trump’s recommendation to maintain social distancing measures until April 30 has engendered a community-wide belief schools will be cancelled until at least that date, if not the entire semester.

Storm Lake Supt. Stacey Cole and Board Member Emilia Marroquin on Wednesday said they’ve received an avalanche of questions surrounding the future of the semester after Trump extended social distancing guidelines on Sunday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closure of all schools in Iowa from March 18 to April 16. In daily press conferences, she said a review of closures throughout the state is ongoing, based on an analysis of the state’s daily reporting coronavirus cases. She’s declined to share the data that underpins her analysis.

Reynolds was scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday after this edition went to press.

 AN APRIL 1 Des Moines Register story reported the state’s overall number of coronavirus cases will peak by April 30, based on a nationwide projection from the University of Washington. The projection, and a number of others that have been released this week, estimate the number of positive tests will jump to 57,000 and the number of deaths per day will peak at 45 by the end of April; they’ve been accurate thus far. 

Cole says the district’s operating as though school will open again in two weeks, but she has a hunch Reynolds will “make a change.”

Until that time, Cole said the district won’t render a decision on school or its related activities, like prom, soccer or commencement.

The projections rest on governors like Reynolds enacting more stringent regulations affecting schools and non-essential services within a week.

The governor’s office hasn’t responded to a request from The Storm Lake Times for comment. 

CHIEF OPERATING Officer Jeff Tollefson on Wednesday told the school board the district has fast-tracked its various construction projects this year. Reroofing materials have already been placed at the staging area behind the existing middle school gym; dirt work on the new gym has begun and the fence on the east side of the middle school track is gone. 

Their completion date depends upon if students come back, he said.

“We’re proceeding as though we don’t have any students in the buildings, similar to how we operate in the summer,” Tollefson said in a recent interview. “Once they come back, we have to reevaluate.”

Cole said the district had to place cautionary tape and locked fencing around its playgrounds and ballfields. She said staff with Community Ed and buildings and grounds has had to regularly police gatherings at all of its facilities that were open.

Cole said the district can’t give off any appearance it promotes gatherings of 10 or more, even if it means not allowing kids use a baseball field or organizing a teacher parade, similar to what other area school districts have done.

“We need to pursue best practices outlined by the CDC and what the governor has ordered,” she said. “There are a lot of things that have been happening or proposed, that are sympathetic, but don’t adhere to those guidelines.”

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