116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — In a contentious meeting Thursday, the Linn-Mar school board voted to require students in prekindergarten through sixth grades to wear masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among students who do not yet have the option to be vaccinated.
The vote was 6-1, with school board member Rachel Wall voting no, stating she was in favor of requiring masks for all students through 12th grade.
School board members agreed that since students 12 and older are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19, they can continue to make their own choices about whether to wear a mask. A COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for children under 12 years old.
As of Sept. 10, the district was reporting 32 students positive for COVID-19.
Linn-Mar has elementary schools for pre-K through fourth grades, intermediate schools for grades five and six, and middle and high schools for grades seven through 12.
Unlike other districts that have middle schools for grades six through eight, Linn-Mar students who have the option of being vaccinated will not be in the same school buildings as students who do not have that option.
The decision comes after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction Monday preventing enforcement of a state law barring schools districts from requiring masks. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought against the law by parents of children who suffer medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
While Eastern Iowa’s two largest school districts — Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, representing more than 30,000 students — have reinstated mask mandates this week for all students, staff and visitors, other area public school districts are waiting for a decision from their school boards or have decided to forgo mask mandates for now.
As the meeting got underway Thursday, Linn-Mar Superintendent Shannon Bisgard asked for “respect and support” for the school board’s decision.
“Everyone is doing the best they can to protect and educate our students,” Bisgard said. “Our current situation will not last forever. … We’ve made it through a year and a half of challenges already, and it’s not been easy for anyone.”
School board member Barry Buchholz said while he doesn’t like the word “mandate” — “I don’t like anybody telling me what to do” — he is concerned about the surge of COVID-19 infections in Iowa.
It is better for the school board to do something rather than nothing, school board member Tim Isenberg said.
School board member Brittania Morey said part of the board’s responsibility is to create a safe environment where students can learn.
While she said she hears community members when they say the survival rate for children is “super high,” Morey said students could be out of school from 10 to 24 days if they do get sick or even end up in the hospital.
“It’s education opportunities they’re missing,” she said.
School board member Clark Weaver, who said he is vaccinated, said the pandemic won’t end until enough people get vaccinated.
“We have to do something because the numbers keep rising,” he said. “I want our kids to have the best opportunity to get educated.”
Wall, who voted no because she wants a mask mandate for students in all grades, said the district needs to do what it can to protect students who are unvaccinated.
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