Several Tri-State schools have not gone to a remote or hybrid learning model, choosing instead to keep students in classrooms amid the pandemic.
Some, like Mason City School District and St. Xavier High School, have found student cases of COVID-19 actually drop when they're in school buildings.
There are plenty of new safety procedures in place across Tri-State as schools navigate the coronavirus pandemic. St. X has plexiglass in their cafeteria, and both districts have new directions and signage for walking through hallways or down staircases.
Leaders at both districts say the most important factor has been masking up.
"When we're wearing our masks and the masks probably being the number one factor that we really can keep each other safe,” said Tracey Carson, MCSD public information officer.
St. X principal Terry Tyrrell agrees, and both require students to wear masks at all times, aside from eating or drinking.
"We've allowed science to kind of guide us, and the number one, two and three most important things that we're doing are wearing masks at all times,” Tyrell said.
What they've found out after six months back in the classroom: masks make a difference.
"Research has bore that out, our experience has bore that out. When your community is wearing masks properly, it really stops the spread of COVID,” Tyrell said.
St. X has reported zero cases of COVID-19 spread in its classrooms, and less than 2% of Mason students who were infected with coronavirus were exposed in the classroom. Even though 189 MCSD students reported positive cases in January due to community spread, the district had zero cases of classroom spread.
"What we have seen is that when we're in the controlled environment of school it is very safe and our case numbers actually go down,” Carson said.
Both schools say this academic year has been successful and given students the option to learn in-person and socialize in a safe environment.