Breaking News
More () »

Illnesses force Iowa school district to cancel classes for 3 days

The district says 16% of its high school students were out sick this week.

MOUNT AYR, Iowa — Fewer and fewer students were filling up seats at Mount Ayr Community High School this week.

"We had 20 students or 7% of our population was out with a confirmed positive COVID test," superintendent Jason Shaffer said. "And then we had another 25 kiddos out with other illnesses. So that put us at a 16% of our population was out with illness-related absences."

Shaffer said the numbers weren't much better at the elementary level. There, 15 students there tested positive for COVID-19, eight tested positive for the flu, and a number of others were out with unspecified illnesses. 

"To be honest, our community and our parents are doing the right thing keeping kids home if they think they may have a symptom, or they've been exposed," Shaffer said. "That's just increased the number of our kids out of our building."

Shaffer says it's not just students impacted by illnesses, but staff too. 

"You combine all the illnesses, whatever the cause behind that illness is with staff that that might have their own children impacted. Shortage of subs to cover those staff, and just the overall wear and tear on the system," Shaffer said.

RELATED: Staff, students, parents ask Iowa Board of Regents for more COVID mitigation measures in open letter

That's why administrators and the school board decided to cancel classes next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (Jan. 24-26). 

Shaffer said he didn't make the decision lightly, knowing how much students, staff, and families have dealt with in the last few years. 

"You're also trying to be aware of mental well being of kids, and kids that have lost so much over the last two years, too. So, it's tough to take opportunities away," he said.

Iowa school districts are required to report to the Iowa Department of Public Health when 10% or more of their population is out sick. The most recent report shows 33 schools meet this threshold in Polk County, 4 in Dallas, 2 in Webster, and 5 in Webster. 

RELATED: Kids' low COVID-19 vaccination rates called a 'gut punch'

WATCH | Waukee schools encourage parents to carpool, make back up plans in the face of bus driver shortage