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Waterloo Schools keeping COVID-19 numbers low a couple weeks into the school year

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - Eastern Iowa schools have been in session for a couple of weeks, while COVID-19 continues to exist. Waterloo Schools staff members say despite the typical struggles that come with the beginning of the school year, it's been going pretty well.

"Most definitely I'm excited about having kids back in the classroom and they are too," Lou Henry Elementary School Physical Education teacher Linda Garrison said.

Hallways and classrooms are filled with smiling faces once again as schools get back into the swing of things in another year of the pandemic.

"Always great to have kids here. That's kind of it. It has been generally good," Lou Henry Principal Jake Youngkent said.

Waterloo Schools reported 12 positive cases among students throughout the 11 elementary schools, the 4 middle schools have 8 cases, and the 3 high schools with 10.

Positive cases among staff have been pretty low as well. In the elementary schools, fewer than 6 have tested positive, same within the middle schools, and the high schools have none. It's important to note, however, the district's dashboard has not yet been updated since August 27.

Each district building does have staff who completed Johns Hopkins COVID-19 contact tracing training.

Principal Youngkent shared some of the changes that are new this year, such as the students being able to request desk shields, and of course, masks becoming optional. The mask guidance coming from the state at the end of last school year.

"We've seen kind of a mix of some students wearing them and some students not. It's just kind of all our families and all our parents are making choices that are best for their families and we're going with it," Principal Youngkent said.

Teachers in the schools are helping students uphold their parent's wishes. Encouraging those students to keep their masks on while in the classroom.

"We all have different things that we're concerned about or ways that we like to do things so we try to keep it a safe learning environment for everybody," Garrison said.

She's incorporating social distancing in her activities and taking advantage of her resources.

"If there's an opportunity to go outside and it makes sense with the learning situations, we go outside," Garrison said.

The virtual learning option is closed to students at Waterloo Schools but will let students back in on a case-by-case basis. On the other hand, students are able to switch from virtual learning to in-person learning if they choose to.

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Diego Hernandez

Multimedia Journalist

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