Newton High School, Emerson Hough issue mask requirements

·2 min read

Jan. 18—Two buildings in the Newton Community School District are requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear masks after student absence rates due to illness spiked above 8 percent for two consecutive days, according to family notifications sent by administrators this past week.

Face coverings will be worn at Emerson Hough Elementary School from Jan. 12 to 25. The same will apply for Newton High School from Jan. 14 to 27. Per school district policy adopted in September 2021, buildings must wait 10 school days before masks can be taken off.

Student absence rates due to sickness at Emerson Hough increased to 10 percent on Jan. 7 and 8.64 percent on Jan. 11. The high school saw its absence rates increase to 8.57 percent on Jan. 12 and 8.59 percent on Jan. 13. Families were then immediately notified of the mask requirements.

"Please help support us by talking with your child about properly wearing their mask at school and by sending your child to school with at least one mask," Emerson Hough Elementary stated in a Jan. 11 Facebook post.

WEST Academy also exceeded the 8 percent threshold for more than two consecutive days on Oct. 5, 2021 and persisting through Oct. 12. Although the building's population is much smaller than any other building in the district, WEST Academy's absence rate due to illness reached upwards of 12.86 percent.

Emerson Hough saw its absence rates spike to 9.42 percent and 9.46 percent on Nov. 15 and 17. The day in between hovered around 7.17 percent. But since the absence rates did not exceed the threshold for two consecutive days the building did not have to issue a mask mandate.

Similar trends to Emerson Hough were seen at Thomas Jefferson Elementary on Dec. 8 and Dec. 10, when absence rates rose to 8.29 percent but the day in between was below the threshold. Berg Middle School's absence rates reacted the same way with 9.43 percent on Jan. 7 and 8.84 percent on Jan. 12.

Other sporadic spikes occurred at Aurora Heights Elementary and Emerson Hough on Jan. 4, as well as WEST Academy on Jan. 5.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com