© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Candidates who disagree with mask mandates top Ankeny school board race

Political signs for the Republican candidates in the non-partisan Ankeny school board race were often seen side by side.
Grant Gerlock
Political signs for the Republican candidates in the non-partisan Ankeny school board race were often seen side by side.

The Ankeny school board will have three new members based on Tuesday’s election results, including two who have said parents should be able to choose whether kids wear masks in school.

Sarah Barthole, Joy Burk and Trent Murphy — all three Republicans in the non-partisan election — won seats on the board. They topped the vote totals for the three open seats on the board, each earning around 18 percent of the vote. Three Democrats — Lori Bullock, Shelly Northway and current board member Lori Lovstad — trailed in the unofficial poll results.

Last month’s board decision to require masks in Ankeny schools became a polarizing issue in the race. Burk, Barthole and Murphy were all supported by anti-mandate organizers in Ankeny, but it’s not clear whether the election results could lead to a change in policy.

Barthole and Burk support allowing parents to decide whether their children wear masks. Barthole, who was endorsed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, listed parent choice as a top concern for the school board, along with equality and inclusiveness.

“Above all I’m committed to equal opportunity for all students,” Barthole said during the event organized by the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce. “Fostering great relationships and partnerships. Recruiting and retaining great teachers. Parent choice and having accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

Trent Murphy has told the Des Moines Register he supports parents deciding on mask wearing, too, but he also agrees with following a federal court ruling that blocked enforcement of Iowa’s ban on school mask mandates and suggested districts violate protections for students with disabilities if they do not follow CDC guidelines for the coronavirus.

Ankeny is one of the districts named in the lawsuit. A preliminary injunction against the state is currently working through federal appeals court.

Candidates who oppose mask mandates in schools had some success in other school board races across Iowa as well.

In September, Linn-Mar schools adopted a partial mask mandate for students in pre-Kindergarten through sixth grade.

Matt Rollinger, an anti-mandate candidate for the Linn-Mar school board, came in third in the vote tally Tuesday. That means he will take one of the three open seats on the board. The other positions will go to current board member Rachel Wall and Melissa Walker who led the unofficial vote count.

Geralyn Jones, another candidate who ran against mask mandates in the Linn-Mar district, finished sixth in the race.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa