DES MOINES, Iowa — Tens of thousands of students went back to school Monday morning across central Iowa.
Samantha Aukes, the communications director for the Ankeny Community School District, said 12,500 students have enrolled.
That number is expected to increase as the district processes more enrollment.
With students coming back and COVID-19 still around, she said they plan to keep the students safe by constantly clean school buildings and air filtration systems.
Everyone on school busses is required to wear a mask and the district is working with the Polk County Health Department and Iowa Department of Public Health to offer take-home COVID testing kits at nurses' offices.
With students heading back to the classrooms this week and no mask mandates, Dr. Nathan Boonstra, a pediatrician at Blank Children's Pediatric, said schools could become hotspots for outbreaks.
"We have seen more kids coming into see us with COVID-19," Boonstra said.
He said he does not want to see things increase even more, which is why he suggests parents who have kids who are eligible to get a vaccine should.
"We know these vaccines work super well," Boonstra said. "They keep kids out of the hospital, they keep kids from getting a bad infection and they can also help reduce that spread."
In Polk County, only 43.5% of residents ages 12 through 19 who are eligible have been vaccinated.
Boonstra knows some parents might be skeptical about getting their kids the vaccine, but reiterated the vaccine is safe.
"This vaccine is very well tested," he told Local 5. "It's using technology that's been developed over quite a long period of time, it's not as new or scary as it's sometimes made out to be. And also the testing that it's gone through has been extensive."
The pediatrician also said if a child cannot get this vaccine yet, to wear a mask, and children should wear a mask even if they do get vaccinated.
If someone is looking to get their child vaccinated in Polk County, click/tap here.
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