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Fairfield schools to remain virtual through Dec. 11

This graph shows the number of absences among students and staff due to COVID-19 in the Fairfield Community School District. The left side of the graph shows where the number was in late September when there were just seven people out. The number spiked on Nov. 13 with 135 absences, and as of Tuesday stood at 108 people.
This graph shows the number of absences among students and staff due to COVID-19 in the Fairfield Community School District. The left side of the graph shows where the number was in late September when there were just seven people out. The number spiked on Nov. 13 with 135 absences, and as of Tuesday stood at 108 people.

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Community School District will remain online only through Dec. 11.

The district’s request to remain in a fully virtual format was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Department of Education. In a letter to the Department of Education, Fairfield School Superintendent Laurie Noll said the district continues to see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among its student body and staff.

She said that the positivity rate is high not only in Jefferson but in the four surrounding counties the district is in.

On Tuesday, the test positivity percentage over the past 14 days was 20 percent in Jefferson County. It was slightly below that in neighboring Henry (17.7 percent) and Washington (18.8 percent) counties, and slightly above it in Van Buren (23 percent) and Wapello (23 percent) counties.

Noll said the district hopes to return to either a hybrid or face-to-face learning model on Monday, Dec. 14, assuming local health data and the rate of employee absenteeism support the move. Employee absenteeism has averaged 8 percent per day during the last two weeks.

Total absences among the student body and staff spiked in mid-November when 135 people were gone because they had either tested positive for COVID or had to isolate or quarantine. That number dropped slightly to 108 on Tuesday but remains much higher than most of October when only about 30 or fewer people missed school due to COVID.

Noll said the number of staff out due to COVID is 27. She said it’s a challenge to provide education to students when so many teachers and staff are gone. She said some of them have chosen to continue teaching courses while they’re quarantined, although that depends on the severity of their symptoms.

Since the district went fully online Nov. 16, most teachers have continued to come to their respective buildings, while some teach from home.

Custodians are continuing to work, and in fact have stepped up their efforts to sanitize rooms and clean toys at the elementary schools. The district’s athletic teams – both games and practices – have been put on hold because of state rules prohibiting extra-curricular activities while the district is in a fully virtual model.

The district’s school board will hold a work session Monday where it will discuss the district’s Return to Learn plan and how best to deliver education during this pandemic.