Meal delivery and distance learning to be implemented

The Davis County School District has made the decision to suspend classes indefinitely following a statement that was released Monday afternoon at about 3 p.m. The decision also coincides with statements made by the Iowa Governor’s office regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

School administrative staff met with Lynn Fellinger and Sue Pankey of Davis County Hospital and Clinics Monday morning to discuss the pandemic and how to handle it in terms of classes. Discussions centered on what could be done by local officials and entities to help stop or slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Fellinger and Pankey started out the meeting providing some information before needing to leave for another meeting on the matter back at the hospital. Fellinger announced that restrictions have been announced that gatherings of 50 or more people are not recommended for at least the next eight weeks.

School administrators also learned Monday that the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union have jointly agreed to cancel all school group activities including sports, speech and music events.

Fellinger used the term special distancing and said that recommendations are that people need to maintain a minimum of a six-foot distance between one another to help stop the spread of the virus. “If the district is going to have classes we recommend that student desks not be in pods or in any configuration where they are facing each other,” said Fellinger. “We would recommend putting desks in rows with everyone facing the same direction,” she said.

Fellinger also announced that Iowa has now had its first cases of “community spread” of the COVID-19 virus. She said a case has been found in Polk County. “We now have five in the center of the state,” she announced. “As of Monday, we have 22 confirmed cases in the state.”

The group discussed the possibility that Governor Kim Reynolds was going to recommend a minimum of a four-week closure of all schools. Mike Lamb of ADLM Emergency Management announced that the four-week time frame is only a recommendation.

Lamb later stated, “That four-week time frame is being used by the state to get an idea of what is happening with the spread of the virus. That four weeks is fluid,” he told the Bloomfield Democrat. “They will evaluate things at the end of four weeks and see how they need to react. They could lift the restriction or they could extend it out even longer.”

Lamb told the group that information he was receiving Monday morning indicated that Governor Reynolds was going to mandate the four-week restriction. “My guess is they will probably extend it,” he said.

Director of Support Services Dan Roberts announced the school was going to start serving meals and implementing their summer lunch program early. He even mentioned serving both breakfast and lunch, but said they would start with lunches first.

School officials started the planning process last week in terms of how to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 virus when the time came. Implementing the summer lunch program was one of those items discussed.

“We have six warmers and can send out multiple busses with those meals,” said Roberts. “We already know where the kids live and the initial plan is to deliver those meals right to the homes.”

Roberts indicated that the district could use six to eight vehicles to deliver those meals. Bus routes could be run once the district learns from parents who needs to have meals delivered to their children.

The group discussed what to do with kids who live in town. Since they don’t want kids congregating at the school building to eat meals, one suggestion was to have a drive-through situation where someone could come pick up those meals and take them home. Meals will start this week.

High School Principal Jennifer Donels announced that the high school’s food pantry also has an abundance of food that could be distributed to homes that need it on the weekends. This could help the food problem since the school district has been told they cannot serve meals on the weekends.

School Nurse Angela Davis said contact needed to be made with parents to get needed medications to students. “We have a number of students who are taking medications that are considered controlled substances,” said Davis. “Because of refill restrictions, we will need to make sure we can contact the parents and make arrangements to send these medications home.”

Davis said calls would need to be made to those parents to arrange for pick-up times to get those medications home.

One of the biggest concerns with school officials both in Davis County and across the state is the learning loss that will take place with kids not being in school. Efforts are being made to tailor a distance-learning program to help minimize that learning loss.

One of the recommendations was to make sure parents read to their children at home. Curriculum director Becky Zesiger announced that the school’s reading and math curriculums both had components that promoted learning efforts at home. Some of those were already being used by the teachers. School officials will be looking at ways to continue that distance learning during the time that in school class restrictions will be in place.

The group also mentioned the need to take care of hourly school staff that will lose out on a paycheck during this time when kids won’t be in classrooms. Superintendent Dan Maeder announced that the short-term solution is to put those employees on administrative leave with pay.

“We need to take care of them and are concerned about them. The school board will have to make some decisions on what to do with those employees,” said Maeder.

Maeder didn’t have any official answers as to what will happen with hourly-paid employees, but did say that the district could find other ways to put those employees to work during this time when classes aren’t in session.

“The key with this who situation is just to remain calm and remain flexible. We will adjust and we will be fine,” said Maeder. “We want to ask the public for patience. We will continue to educate and feed our students.”

Due to the announcement by the state athletic associations, all sports have ben canceled and will not be allowed to practice over the next four weeks.

The discussion dealt with health issues. Lamb also reminded the group that events like this could also be economically devastating to communities.

Lamb reported that a priority in this situation is to make sure daycares can remain open so that parents can go to work. “That is one of those essential services that we must make sure remains in place,” said Lamb. “At the same time, social distancing is huge in helping to curb the spread of the virus.”

Lamb called for businesses to relax sick leave policies and make sure that any employee who is sick stays home during that time.

“At the present time, there are no cases of the virus that have been confirmed in Davis County,” said Lamb. “Right now we are putting county emergency plans into action that have never been used before. Up until now these plans have only been on paper. Officials will be notified when someone in the county test positive for the virus. Even though there has not been a case confirmed in Davis County, people need to act as though there is one.”

Based on Monday’s meeting, the district has suspended classes indefinitely and will continue to evaluate the situation and make future decisions based on information available at that time. For now students will not be attending classes in the Davis County School District for the foreseeable future.

Daycares currently open

Joni Helton, a preschool teacher at Wigwam Day Care and Preschool and president of Davis County Day Care’s board, said Monday both daycares would be closed Tuesday, March 17, but plans are to open Wednesday unless different directions are given by state leaders.

Helton said children will be met at the door and parents and guardians will not be allowed to enter the facilities. She is encouraging parents to keep their children home if other family members are at home.