Most families choose COVID testing option

Principals of elementary and middle schools said most families choose to test for COVID-19 after an exposure, so students can remain in class.



October 12, 2021 - 10:27 AM

USD 257 Board President Dan Willis listens to a presentation at Monday’s board meeting. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

After hearing from a parent concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in Iola schools, board members asked for updates from the building principals. 

They said the district’s new “Test to Stay and Learn” policy seems to be working well, with most students choosing to be tested daily for the virus rather than quarantine at home after an exposure. 

The district’s statistics show 10 students were being tested in order to stay in school as of Friday; the previous Tuesday, there were 16. The district has only a handful of positive cases, with four on Friday and five on Tuesday. Another 10 students were in quarantine, either because of an active case, direct exposure in the home or because parents chose to quarantine.

Jessica Quinhones, a parent who has spoken to the board before, questioned the thoroughness of the policy saying she knows of instances where students were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and did not get asked to be tested. 

Jessica Quinhones talks to USD 257 board members. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Board members and administrators did not directly address Quinhones’ comments, but Board President Dan Willis asked principals about parents’ responses to the testing program.

Andy Gottlob, principal at Lincoln Elementary School, said last week his school had its first student who tested positive for COVID-19. Five students were considered close contacts; four of them began the testing protocol and one chose to quarantine.

Gottlob said the teachers take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. That includes keeping space between students, using hand sanitizer and additional cleaning. 

After staff learned of the positive case, custodians targeted the classroom for heavy-duty cleaning.

McKinley Principal Angie Linn and Jefferson Principal Tiffany Koehn said their schools have seen a handful of positive cases. Linn said McKinley seemed to have more cases than other elementary schools.

Both said the majority of parents chose to have students tested so they could remain in school.

But students at McKinley don’t seem to mind the tests because they get a toy and candy afterward, she said, joking with the board to expect to see an increase in her candy budget.

Iola Middle School has tested about 50 students since the policy began, Principal Brad Crusinbery said. Very few have chosen to quarantine instead. The school has just a couple of active cases. 

Iola High School Principal Scott Carson was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

Matt Baumwart, Iola High School assistant principal and athletic director, presents a proposal for new speakers at the football stadium scoreboard. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

IN OTHER news, the board:

• Heard a report from Cathy Adams, a longtime classroom teacher who is now part of the Title I reading program at Lincoln. She gave an update on Title I procedures.

• Reviewed the open house for the new science building. Board members were pleased with attendance; Superintendent Stacey Fager said students are very excited to be using the building. The semi-circle booths are a popular spot for lunch.