- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines school district has requested a waiver to move completely to online learning as figures released by the state Monday showed coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Iowa remained at a high level.

The Des Moines school board approved the waiver request during an online meeting Sunday night. Superintendent Tom Ahart noted Polk County’s average virus positivity rate topped a state-mandated 15% threshold for districts seeking to shift to online instruction.

Des Moines, the state’s largest school district, had been gradually allowing students in different grades to return to school and, even if the state Department of Education grants the waiver, high school students who opt for a hybrid plan will start in-person classes this week. However, students will shift back to online learning next week if the waiver is granted.

Des Moines is among at least a dozen districts that have requested online-only instruction in specific schools or entire districts.

The question of how to educate children came as the state saw 4,212 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours ending Monday morning. It’s the third consecutive day the state has posted a daily confirmed new case total of more than 4,000.

Three more people died of the virus, bringing the total to 1,845 deaths. There were a record 1,034 people being treated for the virus in hospitals.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from just under 25% on Oct. 25 to 48% on Nov. 8, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. That places Iowa’s rate second in the nation behind South Dakota, which had a rate of 54.3% on Nov. 8.

Of Iowa’s 99 counties, 82 had a positivity rate above 15% and 48 had a rate above 20%.

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