The Rundown on City’s Health Office Covid-19 Protocol


Haileigh Steffen

School nurse Suzi Wilkes and health office attendant Angie Dean comment on hybrid student response to Covid-19 polices.

Haileigh Steffen, Video Editor

When it comes to standard “hybrid” enrollment, the blend of on-site and off-site instruction, student and faculty health comes first. For instance, included in the Iowa City Community School District’s (ICCSD) decision to return to district instruction for the 2020-2021 academic year was a 35-page comprehensive guide on safety and health found here. Included in that guide was an outline of the health office Covid-19 response.  

When an ill-feeling student seeks assistance in City’s Health office, health office attendant Angie Dean screens them for symptoms that are associated with Covid-19 immediately. If the student appears Covid-symptomatic, Dean stops the student and walks them to an isolated Covid-19 room. According to Dean, this is “to keep the office safe for students coming in for things like a Band-aid or medicine.” 

School nurse Suzi Wilkes follows up with the student with the ICCSD’s Covid-19 symptom protocol. If the student shows signs of one high-risk symptom or two low-risk symptoms, that student has to stay home for ten days from the time those symptoms start. Alternatively, the student may return early upon the submission of a negative Covid-19 test result. 

In the case of a positive Covid-19 test, the ICCSD uses contract tracing, what contract tracing is. If a student, a report of a student, or staff tests positive, the health office will call and inquire about when symptoms started. Depending on class size, the health office will quarantine kids within a six-foot bubble. Additionally, the health office has the authority to quarantine sports teams or busing groups. 

“People are considered contagious 48 hours before symptoms develop,” Wilkes said in an interview Tuesday. “So say it was a student and symptoms started on a Friday but they were only there that Wednesday, I wouldn’t happen to anything. But if they were in the building, then I reach out to the teachers to inquire about seating.”

The Johnson County Public Health gave the guidelines for quarantining before the ICCSD came back in-person this fall. The outline noted that if students shared the same room for two hours or longer, regardless of the social distance in the space, the classroom quarantines. On the other hand, if students share 15 minutes or longer cumulatively in a six-foot radius, those students quarantine. 

While classroom closures seldom happen on the high school or junior high level due to student schedules, elementary students spend the majority of the day together in a single classroom. There are currently 15 classrooms quarantined according to the district’s Covid-19 Dashboard, updated daily by the ICCSD’s Health and Safety Committee. 

“I’ve noticed a big change in behaviors from when we first started coming into the building,” Dean said of the student’s reactions to the policies. “It was so quiet. I never heard people talking or congregating. I never had to tell kids to pull their masks up. And now I’m starting to see a lot more congregating to talk and hang out and, you know, reminding people to pull it up over their nose. I think everybody at first was nervous. But now that we’re a little more comfortable, we’re kind of easing back on some of that, and I wish people would remember that we need to take it seriously.”

With Johnson County’s positivity rate reaching levels of 17% this Friday, the ICCSD has announced that hybrid enrollment will move back online starting November 16th. While the county has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, Johnson Country Public Health reports that the ICCSD is doing well at mitigation strategies to keep cases down compared to other school districts in the county, especially those who do not have mandatory mask rules, according to Wilkes. 

Overall, both Wilkes and Dean say they are both “really proud of the students.”

“I think that overall, we’re doing a really good job,” Dean said. “And I think at this point, because of some of the outside stuff in our community, I think our school day, academically in the classroom, [contact] is pretty minimal. But because we’re having such huge numbers in our community, I think it’s the right decision to go online at this point.”