Students who attend the Cedar Valley's two largest school districts will be kept out of the classroom around the Thanksgiving holiday because they are moving to online instruction.

Administrators for the Waterloo and Cedar Falls School Districts have announced plans to switch to virtual instruction for a period of five days, beginning Monday (Nov. 23) and Tuesday (Nov. 24) the week of Thanksgiving. Classes will be also be held online following the holiday, Nov. 30-Dec 2. (Monday-Wednesday). The move to online learning is designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, due to exposures around the Thanksgiving holiday.

News of the districts' plan to shift to virtual learning was announced jointly by administrators in a press release, sent to local media by the Waterloo School District late Tuesday afternoon. According to the press release, in-person classes will resume in both districts on Thursday, Dec. 3.

Black Hawk County health officials support the coordinated effort in anticipation of potential increases associated with family get-togethers during the holiday.

“Within public health, we fully understand the critical role schools play in community, but we are extremely supportive of this coordinated effort," Black Hawk County Health Director Dr. Nafissa Cisse-Egbuonye said in the press release. "We urge all to please practice the 3Ws -- wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.

"Please limit social gatherings. Social gatherings with more safety measures in place -- such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing -- pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. We need everybody to avoid activities that are higher risk for spread and to consider fun alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading COVID-19.”

Black Hawk County health officials plan to monitor data to determine the impact of the districts' proactive approach.

Staffing issues due to COVID-19 cases and quarantines have been ongoing and increasing within local schools, as the number of cases rise in Black Hawk County. Superintendents have been working with local officials and county and state public health on a proactive plan.

Waterloo Schools Superintendent, Dr. Jane Lindaman, feels coordination is critical to effective mitigation across the Cedar Valley.

“The data has shown that school closings, in isolation, do little to mitigate the spread," Lindaman said in the press release. "We wanted to be part of a broader effort to stem the tide of community spread across the Cedar Valley. We fully realize the burden this places on our families, and we are committed to supporting them through this effort.”

Cedar Falls Schools Superintendent, Dr. Andy Pattee, said: “We appreciate everyone working together on this and are optimistic this short-term virtual option for our in-person learners will help slow the community spread we are seeing and allow in-person instruction to continue.”

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart also expressed support for a coordinated effort by local educators.

“These measures are crucial for the health of our community and our ability to reduce the burden placed on the shoulders of our health care facilities,” Hart said. “All Waterloo public recreational facilities are heightening their efforts to slow the spread and limiting attendance. I encourage all residents to limit their interactions outside the home and be vigilant in their mask-wearing, hygiene practices, and social distancing.”

Districts will be communicating final plans with their respective families and students during the next few days.

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