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UPDATE: School districts shutting down; Hawkeye Comm. College going to online classes

UPDATE: School districts shutting down; Hawkeye Comm. College going to online classes

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WATERLOO — The Cedar Valley’s largest public schools and Hawkeye Community College have announced students won’t be returning from spring break for weeks due to coronavirus threats.

Other school systems in Black Hawk County and the surrounding area are closing, as well.

The Des Moines school district, the state’s largest, canceled classes last week. Other districts making similar moves included Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Dubuque and Sioux City,

The decisions by Hawkeye and Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Waverly-Shell Rock community school districts follow a recommendation by Gov. Kim Reynolds to suspend classes for the next four weeks. That comes with rising concern over “substantial community spread” of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Spring break just got underway for each of them, so students were already expecting to be off this week. Hawkeye, Waterloo Schools and Cedar Falls Schools don’t plan on resuming until at least April 13. Waverly-Shell Rock’s schools will remain closed until further notice.

Waterloo and Cedar Falls school buildings will be closed during this time and unavailable for community use, while all on-campus events will be cancelled at Hawkeye. Athletics and other activities in the three school districts are cancelled as well.

Waterloo Community Schools will reopen its buildings from 2 to 7 p.m. this Wednesday to allow students to retrieve any essentials. In addition, a statement noted the district will still provide academic and meal support for students starting next week.

“To help learning continue, our educators are organizing links to activities and lessons by grade level and subject,” said the statement. “Paper copies of worksheets will be made available for our younger students at the elementary schools.”

Families can pick up the worksheets during a Monday through Friday curbside “grab-n-go” meal distribution over the three week period at any district elementary school. Meals are only available to children 18 or younger.

While Hawkeye’s in-person classes are canceled, the college will transition to online instruction starting next Monday. Additional information will be sent to students in the coming days related to this transition and resources available. For the latest information, students can visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/covid-19.

“Hawkeye’s top priority is the safety and well-being of our students and employees,” said HCC President Todd Holcomb.

A statement from Cedar Falls Community Schools said there is a “constantly evolving” response to the pandemic with growing precautions needed.

“We understand and appreciate that this decision creates additional challenges for our families,” said the statement. “At the same time, we feel compelled to do all that we can to protect the health and safety of our community.”

District officials will continue gathering to deal with specific concerns that emerge.

“Our district’s emergency response team will be meeting regularly to address specific items and will continue to share more information, including expectations for staff, food programs, educational support, etc.,” the statement noted. “Throughout the coming weeks, we will continue to provide information about the plans for the reopening of our schools, including our plans regarding activities and athletics.”

Families should contact the district with any support they need, it added. Updates will be provided through the district’s messaging system, website and social media.

Waverly-Shell Rock Community Schools’ officials are also keeping a close eye on the evolving situation.

“We will continue to evaluate the situation as we move along,” Superintendent Ed Klamfoth wrote in an email to The Courier. “This is nothing like I’ve ever experienced, or hope to again.”

Other area school districts that closed their doors as of Monday for at least the next four weeks include Cedar Valley Catholic Schools, Denver, Dunkerton, Independence, Janesville, Royal Legacy Christian Academy, Cedar Falls’ St. Patrick School and Waterloo Christian School. The Dike-New Hartford and Jesup school districts had classes Monday but are starting a four-week break Tuesday. The Bosco Catholic School System in Gilbertville was off Monday as administrators met to discuss next steps and Cedar Falls' Valley Lutheran School is on spring break.

Like Waterloo Schools, educators at Royal Legacy and Waterloo Christian are preparing resources that will allow students to continue learning at home and online. 

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Staff Writer

After 18-plus years reporting on local education, I’ve graduated to covering the city of Cedar Falls. Family and church commitments keep me busy outside of work along with lots of biking, rowing and skiing – pretty good for a guy with fake hips.

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