Marshall County school superintendents released a joint statement on the school districts’ response to COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.
Marshalltown, East Marshall, West Marshall, BCLUW and GMG Community school districts plan to remain open but will take extra precautions to protect the health of students and staff.
The statement read:
“The safety and well-being of our students and staff members is our top priority. We are working with our area health departments, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and other state organizations, as well as collaborating with school superintendents in our region to carefully monitor this situation. Currently, there are no plans in any area districts to close school due to the coronavirus or for any other reason.
We are working together as a team of school districts to help make the best decisions for each of our individual districts. If local or state health organizations determine that there is a need to cancel school events, close school, or take other preventative actions, we will communicate as much information as possible in a timely manner.”
According to Adam Sodders, communications director for the Marshalltown Community School District, the Buildings and Grounds Department and Transportation Department are hard at work thoroughly cleaning all communal spaces. The seats, walls and windows of buses will be sanitized to avoid contact with the virus.
When it comes to food service, schools will restrict the use of self-serve food items and make sure to clean all surfaces between lunch periods. The district has stocked up on cleaning supplies and does not expect to face any shortages.
Personal hygiene practices for students and staff will also be stressed.Sodders said school officials will continue to monitor the situation to see if further action is required.
“We’re really watching closely what schools and public health officials are saying,” he said.
If the time does come for Marshalltown Community Schools to close, Sodders will contact parents and students through the channels that are already in place. This includes Infinite Campus, email, social media and the district website.
The statement issued read that changes to school district operations may need to be made with short notice.
It is unclear whether online learning is an option in the event that schools close. Students have been instructed to take their learning devices such as Chromebooks home nightly, but Sodders said they are aware that not all students have access to internet service at home.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to close schools or not, but Sodders said they have one main goal.
“Student safety is our number one concern,” he said. “That will be the first factor in our decision making.”
Although a number of colleges and universities across Iowa have postponed students returning or reverted to online learning, the Marshalltown Community College will resume classes as normal on Monday, but the situation will be monitored.
Chancellor Kristie Fisher said administration meetings will be held daily starting Monday. She and other Iowa colleges administrators had a conference call with an Iowa State University physician and had the opportunity to ask questions about the correct action to take in light of the coronavirus being present in the state.
Fisher said since there are no local COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that MCC should resume but monitor everything.
“We are relying on experts,” she said. “We are restricting some travel. We will decide on Monday which travel that will be and for how long.”
MCC has a number of international students and Fisher has not heard if any of them are making or altering travel plans after President Donald Trump put a ban on many Europeans entering the United States. The ban was announced Wednesday and goes into effect midnight on Friday.
“I have not been able to talk to our international folks about that yet,” Fisher said.
Since the campus does not have a health facility, she said MCC will rely on Marshalltown clinics to take care of students who fall ill.
“We are working with faculty to do everything we can to support anyone with symptoms,” Fisher said. “Whether those symptoms are caused by COVID-19, influenza or anything else. We have good people here who care about doing the right things.”
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