Jewell, Iowa – At 3:20 p.m. on a Monday, a voice booms through the public address speakers at South Hamilton School. “Everybody mask up.” A reminder of how much changed this school year. The South Hamilton district — 700 pre-K through 12th-grade students from the rural towns of Ellsworth, Randall, Stanhope and Jewell in the center of Iowa — tackled challenges facing other rural schools since COVID-19 came to Iowa in March and shut down schools.
“You can’t handle the ‘what ifs,’ because there are too many of them,” said longtime activities director Todd Coy. This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project. The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.