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Iowa City schools reinstating mask mandate

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Horn elem 9.14

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa City Community School District will reinstate a mask mandate for all students and staff on school property, effective Wednesday at the start of school.

The school board did not discuss the issue before voting on it, but Superintendent Matt Degner said they got advice from their lawyer before proposing it. The order will apply to everyone indoors on school property, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. For example, masks will be expected for fans at football games.

Parents spoke both for and against the mask mandate during public comment Tuesday. School Board President Shawn Eyestone said they received about 250 emailed comments before the meeting; with a vast majority being in favor of it.

"Kids need to be safe and they need to be in school," Brook Easton said in favor of it. Easton and fellow parent Jonna Higgins-Freese started a petition in August, asking the school board to mandate masks when it was illegal at that time.

Parents who criticized the mandate said it was bad for their kids' mental health and said masking should be a parental choice. One mom said last year's mask mandate caused irreparable harm to her family.

"My son wrote a letter to a friend about what depression means to him. 'Depression is putting on a mask every day and hoping that someone pulls down that mask to see how you're really feeling.' My son committed suicide in March, 2021," Micki Salge said.

Others responded by saying masks being optional makes their kids feel unsafe and affects their mental health.

“Now, my kid has 30 people in their class. They're scared. You wanna talk about mental health? That’s mental health. My kid is scared to go to school," Easton said.

Eyestone said he hears parents on both sides, but the district needs a community-wide response to slow the spread.

“I don’t wanna discount them but this is a societal issue. So, as a society, we have to try to come together to fix it," Eyestone said.

ICCSD is the latest district to make this move, after a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order on HF847 Monday (which bans mask mandates in schools).

The Cedar Rapids school district took this step Tuesday afternoon, and Des Moines Public Schools did so on Monday. Both of their mandates take effect on Wednesday.