Iowa City Community School District removes district-wide mask mandate

In alignment with CDC recommendations, the Iowa City Community School District removed mask mandates at the Board of Directors Special Meeting.


Grace Kreber

The Iowa City Community School District held a meeting at the professional development center at 6 p.m. on Tuesday Feb. 7, 2022.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

The Iowa City Community School District board announced the removal of its mask mandates in all schools at a special meeting on March 1.

The vote was unanimous, with all 7 members of the board voting in favor of removing mask requirements.

The change follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated regulations regarding masking. Johnson County currently falls into the “medium” COVID-19 Community Level, according to CDC metrics. As per recommendation, communities that fall in the “low” or “medium” categories are not explicitly advised to wear masks.

Currently, the active student and staff COVID-19 cases are at 7 and 4 respectively, having lowered by 0.11 percent and 0.08 percent in the past week.

The specific guidelines were motioned by Vice President of the Iowa City Board of Directors Ruthina Malone and seconded by board member Lisa Williams. The motion directly follows CDC recommendation, meaning that mask accommodations will follow changes in Johnson County’s community level.

The Iowa City school board was adamant about adhering to the CDC regulations. Board President Shawn Eyestone said that public health officials at the CDC have the best understanding of how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Mayor Bruce Teague lifts Iowa City mask mandate

“Our only goal has been, throughout [the pandemic], to try to stay consistent, take their advice, keep our students and staff safe, and do the best we can,” Eyestone said. “We know that not everybody’s agreed, but I do think it’s important for us to have trust in those institutions and for our guidance to reflect that.”

If an individual tests positive and returns to school five days after exposure, the Iowa City Community School District will require masks during the appropriate isolation period.

Questions regarding individuals who could not be vaccinated due to age or other restrictions were mentioned, and the board said it will put faith in the CDC guidelines, and that the decision makers have a comprehensive understanding of educational settings.

The directors also mentioned the federal court litigation that stipulated the removal of mask mandates would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Matt Degner, superintendent of the Iowa City Community School District, said immunocompromised students should not be forced to attend classes online to remain safe. Board member J.P. Claussen expressed this concern, as well.

RELATED: CDC drops mask recommendations for healthy people in most U.S. counties, Mayor Bruce Teague to evaluate mask mandate

Through team meetings with the Individualized Education Program and 504 plan accommodations — plans that schools develop to provide support to students with disabilities — the district looks to find solutions that keep all students safe.

“I do know that as we’ve been through this process, and we identify those folks, I would hope that we are very responsive to enforce those mask mandates around people whose lives are truly at danger,” Claussen said.

While the removal of the mask mandate is contingent on Johnson County remaining at the “medium” community level, the school board members said they intend on continuing discussions regarding COVID-19 response measures.

“We wanted to get some basic steps determined here tonight around the mask issue, that was most significant the reason for the meeting, and we’ll come back next week with some of those other protocols as we approach the spring,” Degner said.