(Lenox-Griswold) -- KMAland districts are gearing up for another school year while dealing with COVID-19-related issues.

Dave Henrichs is superintendent of the Lenox and Griswold School Districts. Like other districts, Henrichs' school districts face opening the school year amidst a continuing pandemic. Henrichs recently told KMA News this year's conditions are a bit different from the start of the 2020-21 academic year.

"Last year, COVID was more prevalent at that point," said Henrichs. "But, you still never knew what tomorrow was going to bring, so you're still kind of preparing for the unknown."

Henrichs, however, is concerned about the recent uptick in COVID numbers across the region--particularly the Delta variant.

"Although numbers are certainly aren't as high as they were," he said, "we're hearing that they're rising. It's difficult to prepare for the unknown. The guidance that comes from the CDC or local government has proven that it can change quickly. So, there's a little nervousness in the back of my head, not knowing what tomorrow brings."

One item missing from both districts's Return to Learn plans this year are mask requirements. Regulations approved by the Iowa Legislature and signed by Governor Kim Reynolds at the end of this year's session prohibit school districts from instituting mask mandates. Henrichs says the biggest concern is the possible disruption of the school year due to surging COVID numbers.

"We want to make sure that kids are here," said Henrichs. "We feel strongly that we have great staff at both schools, and our kids are going to achieve at a higher level if they're with our teachers, face to face. We certainly don't want anything to disrupt that. The spread of the virus could be one of those things.

"At the same time--not to take sides on the issue--but people have had the opportunity all the way down to 12 years old to get vaccinated. So, at some point, I believe it kind of becomes an individual's choice to take precautions outside of what the school can legally do for them."

Henrichs says both Lenox and Griswold will ramp up cleaning activities when classes aren't in session to ward off the virus' spread.

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