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Students returning to the classroom bring excitement and challenges

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ICCSD in person 2.19
Students leaving Iowa City High School on Friday

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Friday marked the end of the first week of fully in-person learning in the Iowa City Community School District. Administrators say it was a welcome sight but also made for health and safety issues.

"It feels more like regular school than we've had all this year," Justin Colbert said, principal at Liberty High School.

Colbert says students seemed to enjoy seeing their friends every day and learning in the classroom but having 70% of his student body on campus made social distancing impossible.

"We have 30 plus kids in a room, we just can't ensure that anymore. Realistically, It looks more like three feet of distance between each student," Colbert said.

ICCSD and the Dubuque Community School District were two districts not offering 100% in-person learning until Governor Reynolds mandated it on January 29. Both had hybrid models where students were broken into A and B groups.

Waterloo schools started offering 100% learning at all levels on February 1 and Cedar Rapids offered it to only PK-8 students before the new law.

The majority of districts have offered 100% in-person learning for months. The Iowa Department of Education says 82% of districts were offering it in early December.

Principal Colbert says Liberty High School is fortunate to have more space than the district's other three high schools to spread students out. Liberty High was built in 2017 and also got a 21-room addition this year.

"The luxury of being in a new building is we do have some open classrooms," he said.

He does say that lunchtime still gave them issues, with hundreds of students gathering together without their masks.

"All of our students are required to be masked but the one exception to that is lunchtime," Colbert said.

As of Friday night, there are 56 active cases of COVID-19 in the district. Colbert hopes they can keep those numbers down to enjoy the benefits of students being back.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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