Staff Editorial

Iowans need clearer back-to-school guidance

Cap and gown distribution at Linn-Mar Stadium in Marion, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. The school had a series of smal
Cap and gown distribution at Linn-Mar Stadium in Marion, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. The school had a series of smaller class of 2020 commencement ceremonies. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Last week, the Iowa Department of Education released their guidance for schools hoping to reopen in the fall.

What is significant about the plan is what it doesn’t include. It does not include mask requirements, funding for personal protective equipment, criteria upon which schools will need to close in case of exposure, or guidance on how sick leave should be addressed.

Additionally, the guidance outlines that if a school district wants to implement additional or more stringent policies, they first must consult with public health officials and attorneys.

Four months into the pandemic, nearly 30,000 Iowans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 700 Iowans have died. Iowa is one of a five states that never enacted stay-at-home orders, instead opting for a partial shutdown. Now, as our case counts rise but our hospitalization rates stay low, the state is pushing forward with going back to business as usual.

And the outcome is we are tripping over our own feet. Businesses, which opened per state guidance, now are being forced to close as workers and customers contract the virus.

Without clear guidance, schools face the same reality. Except this time, the lives and welfare and education of our children hang in the balance.

While transmission rates among children remain low, studies have shown that they can be asymptomatic carriers. And the effects of the virus still are being discovered. The CDC is investigating Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children, which is associated with COVID-19. The Gazette reported that Cedar Rapids hospitals last month treated at least two children with the syndrome.

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With fears and uncertainty looming, the Department of Education not even supporting mask requirements flies in the face of <URL destination="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html">CDC guidance which emphasizes teaching and reinforcing the use of masks.

</URL>Iowa educators who have organized in a Facebook group titled “Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School” are advocating that the Department of Education: reinforce the usage of masks in schools; layout social distancing guidelines for busing, classrooms, arrival and dismissals; offer guidelines for sick leave; funding for PPE.

This editorial board advocates for a clearer and more responsible plan, one that offers firmer guidance that is based on the CDC recommendations and at the very least encourages and teaches mask wearing.

Iowa’s economy cannot open without schools and our schools should be a place where parents feel their students are safe. And now, few parents in the state have that assurance.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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