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State Will Not Require Students To Wear Masks In School This Fall

Statewide Iowa — (RI) New state guidelines for reopening Iowa schools this fall say face coverings should be allowed, but not required.

Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association — the state teacher’s union, says that doesn’t make sense.

(as said) “With the explosion of cases being identified in various parts of our country, I simply cannot understand why we, as a state, would not recommend PPE for our staff and our students,” he says.

Beranek is urging local school boards and administrators to not only require face coverings but to ensure there’s adequate physical separation of students inside classrooms.

(as said) “When you have a classroom of 28-40 students, that will be incredibly difficult to maintain the safety protocols that are established by the CDC,” he says.

Districts may set their own rules, but state officials say parents must be notified if district standards are stricter than the state guidelines. The Iowa Department of Education recommends against screening students and staff as they arrive at school as people can be sick without having a fever. Beranek, a third-grade teacher in West Des Moines, says these state guidelines are deeply disappointing.

(as said) “I truly believe that there will be districts around our state that will do the right thing,” Beranek says. “As a state that believes in local control, now is the time for our local communities to work together to ensure that not only are students learning and growing, but they’re also safe and healthy.”

Students who are medically fragile or who have specific medical needs will be allowed to stay home. The Department of Education’s guidance encourages schools to teach students not to criticize the choice of wearing or NOT wearing a mask.

Governor Kim Reynolds says school officials who choose to mandate that everyone in a school building must wear face masks must seriously consider how to implement the policy.

(as said) “What type of a face covering will be allowed?” Reynolds asks. “…Who will be responsible for providing the face coverings and take the measures to ensure that they’re sanitary? Who will be responsible for tracking the appropriate use and storage of a face covering?”

Newly posted guidelines from the Iowa Department of Education have a list of considerations about face masks and the governor says schools must define what appropriate use means.

(as said) “What do you do during lunch? Naptime?…The other thing the CDC states is that cloth-based coverings should be washed after every use and it’s important to always remove face coverings correctly and wash your hands after handling,” Reynolds says, “so this is really important and it becomes problematic.”

Reynolds says the state’s epidemiologists help the state’s education department develop its “broad guidance” to schools about how to safely resume classes this fall in the midst of a pandemic. A mandatory face masking policy has what the agency calls “considerable implications.”

Iowa school districts were to have submitted “Return to Learn” plans to the state by this Wednesday. The plans must include three components, outlining the option of in-person instruction in a classroom, an online-only option, and a third option that’s a hybrid of meeting inside the school building and taking classes online.

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