Iowa City schools will require masks for K-12 students

The school board voted unanimously to mandate masks for all students and staff.


Jerod Ringwald

Members of the Iowa City Community School District Board listen to members of the crowd during an Iowa City Community School District meeting in Iowa City on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. Members of the audience argued for and against a mask mandate within the school district.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

Iowa City schools will require masks for K-12 students.

The Iowa City Community School District board voted unanimously to mandate mask use for students, staff, and visitors at its meeting Tuesday night.

Previously, the school board could not mandate masks because of a law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May that prohibited mask mandates.

On Monday, an Iowa federal judge temporarily suspended the law after groups backed by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking to place a hold on the ban.

RELATED: Judge temporary order allows Iowa schools to require masks

During the school board meeting, Superintendent Matt Degner read off a statement from Joe Holland, the school district’s attorney, that said that the school district has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of students, staff, and visitors.

Children under the age of 12 cannot receive a vaccine against COVID-19, and cases are rising among children.

Iowa was one of five states under investigation by the U.S Department of Education to determine if the statewide prohibition of mask mandates discriminates against students with disabilities who have a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 by preventing them from safely accessing in-person education.

Moments after the judge issued the restraining order, Reynolds came out with a statement stating that she plans to appeal the motion on the basis that the motion “took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child.”

“We’ve been advocating before school for mask mandates,” parent Brooke Easton said. “I just want my sixth-grader to be able to go to school again, and to be able to go to school safely.”

Easton is a member of Science for Safe Schools and participated in a demonstration in Des Moines in August calling for school districts to mandate masks. Hearing the announcement that a mask mandate will be put back in place, Easton said she was “super excited.”

“School needs to be a safe place for everybody,” she said.

The school district had a mask mandate in place during the 2020-21 school year.

Board member J.P. Claussen said that he was not expecting the vote to be unanimous for the mask mandate, but was not surprised to find that the motion passed.

“We hope that this keeps kids safe from either getting COVID-19, or spreading COVID-19 to those vulnerable folks,” Claussen said.

He said that while some parents are against the mask mandate, he says that his responsibility is to all the kids in the school district.

“A lot of parents bring up personal choice and I understand that, but if your personal choice harms me, that’s not a fair choice,” Claussen said.