No masks required in guidance for Iowa school reopenings

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, said that doesn’t make sense.

“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 said.

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.

“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 said.

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, said these state guidelines are deeply disappointing.

“I truly believe that there will be districts around our state that will do the right thing,” Beranek said. “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.

— Radio Iowa