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Which Iowa School Districts Have Re-imposed Mask Requirements This Week

Following a judge's ruling pausing the enforcement of a ban on school mask mandates, districts are holding meetings to decide next steps.

This story was updated at 8:00pm on Thursday, September 16, 2021. 

In the days following a federal judge's rulingthat halted enforcement of the state's ban on mandating masks in schools, at least 10 districts have issued partial or universal mask requirements.

On Thursday, the West Des Moines and Davenport school boards voted to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks. The Linn-Marr district approved a mask mandate for preK-6, but not upper grades. Their requirements go into effect Monday.

Those districts join Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Iowa City and West Burlington public schools which made announcements earlier in the week.

Ames Community School District’s board approved a mask mandate to begin Friday. Urbandale Community School District’s board of directors approved a mask requirement indoors that will also begin Monday.

The Waukee school board discussed a possible mask mandate for more than an hour Thursday evening, but the motion that passed did not add any mask requirements. Instead, it directed administrators to look for ways to accommodate students with disabilities and health risks protected from discrimination under federal law.

On Wednesday, Sioux City Community School District’s board met to discuss potentially bringing back a district-wide mask mandate.

Board member Monique Scarlett made a motion to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks in all district buildings. But the motion died after no board member seconded it.

Accredited nonpublic schools were not included in the judge’s temporary restraining order, according to letters sent out to families from Catholic dioceses and schools.

“We want to clarify that we still will not be mandating masks, because the ban is still not lifted for our schools,” said Patty Lansink, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sioux City, in a statement.

The letters from the Diocese of Des Moines and St. Cecilia School, which is part of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, say schools will continue to encourage staff and students to wear masks, wash hands frequently and practice social distancing.

Schools in the Diocese of Davenport will also still be held to the ban on mask mandates as well, according to their superintendent.

Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) Executive Director Mary Jane Cobb says it will take some time for school boards and districts to make decisions and more local decisions are likely in the coming days to weeks.

“I think that without the state law in place, we're back at the same place we were earlier this year, where it's going to be hotly discussed in a lot of school districts,” Cobb says.

Cobb says policy decisions need to be adaptable as risks evolve over time.

Catherine Wheeler was Iowa Public Radio's All Things Considered host and a reporter from 2021 to 2023.
Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.
Grant Gerlock
Grant Gerlock is Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.