116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
While Eastern Iowa’s two largest school districts — Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, representing more than 30,000 students — have reinstated a mask mandate this week for all students, staff and visitors, smaller area districts are waiting for a decision from their school board or have decided to forgo a mask mandate for now.
The decisions come 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.
Here’s where area schools stand on reinstating a mask mandate:
The Cedar Rapids Community School District announced Tuesday it is reinstating a mandate that all students, staff and visitors, starting today, must wear face coverings in its schools to protect against the latest surge in coronavirus cases.
Masks also will be required for Cedar Rapids-based day care programs. And masks are encouraged during activities “beyond the school day,” Superintendent Noreen Bush said in an email to families Tuesday.
Although a board vote was not required, school board members voiced their support for a mask mandate during a meeting Monday. The district is working on protocol to enforce the mask mandate and a FAQ document to share with families and staff.
The district, with 16,700 students, reported 96 students and nine staff positive for the virus as of last Friday.
The Iowa City school board unanimously reinstated a mask mandate Tuesday evening. Students, staff and visitors in Iowa City schools will be required to wear masks on school grounds.
Masks also will be required outdoors on school property if social distancing is not possible. Students actively participating in athletic competition — whether indoors or outdoors — are not required to wear a mask. Students on the sidelines or bench, however, are required to wear a mask.
“Liability shifts now to local school districts, and our responsibility is to protect the health and safety of students, staff and visitors when we talk about providing a safe environment,” Superintendent Matt Degner said during the board meeting.
As of Wednesday, Iowa City schools, with an enrollment of 14,500, were reporting 46 students and 11 staff members positive for COVID-19, and 124 students and two staff members in quarantine from exposure.
Parents and community members spoke in favor of reinstating a mask mandate during the public comment portion of the board meeting.
Jen Knights, parent to students at Iowa City High School and Iowa City South East Junior High, said masks are crucial in fighting — and ending — the pandemic.
“Because some people at this meeting are not wearing masks, I will leave after making my comments,” Knights said. “Our kids don’t have that choice in their classrooms. … My kids learned online all year last year, and it was excruciating for all of us.”
A mask mandate protects children who are too young to be vaccinated and whose parents don’t believe in wearing masks or being vaccinated against COVID-19, Knights said.
Other parents opposed a mask mandate.
Micki Salge asked the school district to keep in mind the mental health of students when making their decision. Her son, Dylan Salge, died by suicide in March after struggling with depression. He was a sophomore at Iowa City West High School.
Salge, a health care worker who is vaccinated and wears a mask daily, read a letter her son wrote to a friend in October 2020 about what depression means to him.
“It means losing motivation and so many things you used to love,” the letter said. “It’s having to wear a mask every day hoping someone will care enough to pull that mask down and see how you really are.”
The College Community school board will vote Monday during its regularly scheduled school board meeting whether to reinstate a mask mandate.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of the district main office, 8005 Prairie Spirit Lane Dr, Cedar Rapids.
Clear Creek Amana
The Clear Creek Amana school board voted Tuesday to wait on a decision about masks until a ruling is made in the state’s appeal of the temporary injunction.
The vote was 5-1, with school board member Abdouramane Bila favoring an immediate mask mandate.
About 50 students and staff in the district have tested positive for COVID-19 this school year — five times the number of students and staff positive for the virus a year ago, interim Superintendent Joe Brown said. Most of the cases, he said, are in elementary schools.
“It’s our responsibility to stop at a red light,” Brown said. “Someone could argue it’s their right not to stop, but if you run a red light, you can harm someone else, get a ticket or you might get away with it.
“There are certain things we require people to do,” he said. “We do expect everyone to stop at a red light, wear a seat belt, and we mandate that if you play football you have to wear a helmet.”
The Linn-Mar school board is holding a special meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday in the boardroom, 2999 N. 10th St., Marion, to vote on whether to reinstate a mask mandate.
The Marion Independent School District is consulting with legal counsel and continuing to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in its buildings, Superintendent Janelle Brouwer said.
At this time, masks will continue to be optional for students, staff and visitors.
The Mount Vernon school board is expected to hold a special meeting next week to consider a masking question.
In a post on the district’s Facebook page, Superintendent Greg Batenhorst said the district does not want to rush into a decision until it has time to discuss the issue with the board’s attorney, gather data and do research.
Masks will continue to be optional for Solon school district students, staff and visitors.
The decision is up to school administration, but “leadership would never go a direction that was knowingly opposite of the board,” Superintendent Davis Eidahl said. All decisions are made with full support of the board, he said.
The district, he said, has seen COVID-19 cases in the “single digits” so far this year.
“We’re monitoring positive cases and other illnesses and absenteeism,” Eidahl said. “If we need to make adjustments, we’ll make those adjustments.”
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