The Mount Ayr School Board has voted to cancel classes in the district Monday through Wednesday in the face of mounting student and staff sickness.
Mount Ayr School Superintendent Jason Shaffer says the closings are due to mounting absences of students and instructors from a variety of illnesses–including COVID-19.
“Right now, basically, we’ve been kind of watching data over the last several days. We’ve seen a spike in some of our student and staff illnesses–not just COVID, but additional illnesses as well, such as influenza. Then, you have your other absences that maybe aren’t specified,” Shaffer says. “But, overall, that would be the main rationale. And, when you compile all those factors where you have students gone, staff and the difficulty of filling staff spots when they’re absent, and the shortages of the subs, we’ve kind of compiled all those things.”
Shaffer says 20 high school students are out with COVID and 25 others with unspecified illnesses — for a 16 percent absentee rate. There are 15 elementary students out sick with COVID, eight with the flu, and another 25 with unspecified illnesses — for a total of 19 percent out. At the same time, he says Mount Ayr is experiencing the same shortage of substitute teachers as other area districts.
Shaffer says the buildings will be cleaned during the three-day shutdown. “Yeah, we do, obviously hope to provide a deeper clean, with nobody in the building for a few days,” Shaffer says. “Hopefully, that gives the buildings an opportunity to get rid of any other illnesses or germs that might be sitting out there.”
Shaffer says students and staff will be asked to wear masks for two weeks after returning from the break.
“The school board felt that the one, maybe, an extra layer of mitigation that could be put out there–the masking–hopefully would help,” he says. “If this makes sense, if we can get everyone to commit to that for the next seven-eight days of school that we have, hoping to then kind of get ahead of the current momentum, with the number of illnesses, and so forth.”
The three days missed next week will be made up at the end of the school year.
(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)