116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa students will soon go back to schools and universities and the state has no serious plan to keep COVID-19 in check.
Since the last time there were hundreds of kids in school buildings and thousands of young adults on college campuses, the new coronavirus delta variant has become prevalent. It appears to be more contagious than previous iterations of the virus, and there still is much we don’t know about it, not to mention other variants that could emerge or become widespread.
Combine that with the fact that children age 12 and under are not eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. When elementary schoolers return to class, they will become experiment subjects in the petri dishes of their classrooms.
Tragically, state policymakers have undermined the ability of school officials to manage the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.
This year, the Iowa Legislature passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law preventing K-12 schools from imposing mask mandates. While Reynolds has the authority to grant local control through an emergency order, she has shown no willingness to do so.
The Iowa Board of Regents has not adopted any policies pursuant to federal guidance that would require students to either be vaccinated or wear a mask. The University of Iowa is the only school in the Big Ten Conference with no mask requirement, the Press-Citizen reported this week.
That state has also shut down the large-scale COVID-19 testing sites that were launched last year. Instead, Iowans are relying on private providers and mail-in tests, neither of which are fast or accessible enough to keep up with likely testing needs this fall.
Without the authority for a mandate, teachers will need to build a culture of voluntary masking. School districts, counties and cities ought to collaborate to make sure vaccines and tests are easily available to students and their families. Maybe a portion of the millions local governments are getting as federal pandemic recovery assistance could be put to use.
Teachers, administrators and school board members have been put in a terrible situation due to the state government’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re responsible for keeping students safe, but the state has raided their toolbox for doing so.
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