More questions than answers

CCA grapples with COVID crisis

Amelia Keller , Reporter

COVID-19 has undeniably upturned our lives. Schools are not exempt from this upheaval. 


6 of the 7 schools in our district are in Johnson County, the county which has the second highest number of cases in our state, only falling behind Polk County, as of September 28, 2020.


The school first reported a positive covid case on August 26th, stating that we had one high school student test positive after attending a party at Kirkwood. All on-site classes and activities were cancelled for the following day. 


If one case is enough to warrant a closure, what has been done about all the cases since then? How many positive cases have been reported to the district since that first case? The Return to Learn page on the website says that when there is a confirmed case, the school undergoes “enhanced disinfection procedures.” What is the protocol for these enhanced procedures? Is there a protocol at all? Have staff been briefed on these procedures? We know that the school is providing hand sanitizer, building hand washing into the day, and using electrostatic sprayers for sanitation nightly. But what about once a positive case is confirmed? What additional sanitation steps are taken?


The Return to Learn Plan also stated that those with close contact will be notified and that the names of those in close contact will also be shared with public health officials. “Close contact” is defined as anyone within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, with or without cloth face coverings, or anyone in the same room as this person for 2 hours or more. Teachers often need to work side by side with a student for more than 15 minutes in order to provide effective instruction. Why are teachers not considered to be within close contact of a student?


Currently, CCA is posting a “district absence percent” on their website. In this count are absences due to symptoms of illness of any kind and absent because they are in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19 or exposure to someone who has tested positive. This percentage does not distinguish which absences are related to a positive COVID case/COVID symptoms or other illness. It does not share which schools the absences are at.


In accordance with state guidelines, schools are not allowed to report a specific case count until they reach six or more cases. If they have below six cases, they are allowed to report that there are between 1 and 5 positive cases, but not a specific number therein. 

In an email to me, Superintendent Tim Kuehl said, “We aren’t to report a specific number for any building or district wide under 6 positive cases. We would have nothing to report.” 


This is not true. They can absolutely report that they have either zero or between 1 and 5 cases at any individual school and/or across the district.


Schools are not required to report a case count if they reach six or more cases. They are just then given the option to report if they so choose. 


When asked if specific case counts would be released if we were to reach the six count threshold, Kuehl stated in an email on September 27th, “We will stick to reporting the percent of absenteeism. We have talked about reporting if a building reaches 5% absenteeism using the State system for calculation.” 


5% is a massive amount. There are 580 in person students in the high school, per Mr. Potter. A 5% absenteeism rate would mean 29 students were absent due to being COVID positive, experiencing symptoms, or being directly exposed to COVID. That is nearly five times the case count at which the state allows reporting.


Clear Creek Amana Community School District has a moral obligation to be completely transparent with their students, parents, and community. It is inherently dangerous to not report these numbers, especially when parents still have the option to remove their students from in-person learning. How can parents be expected to make an informed decision about their children’s health when the leaders in their schools are making the decision to not be forthcoming with all information they have available?


What reason could possibly rationalize not providing every data point you can to your students and their families? Why is this being hidden? 


This is a life and death situation. Clear Creek Amana administration, I implore you to heed the gravity of the situation and commit to being as transparent as possible.