Iowa will not require face masks when schools restart

On Thursday, the Iowa Department of Education released guidelines for reopening schools in the fall that did not include requirements for students or teachers to wear face masks, submit to temperature controls, or practice social distancing.

Instead, the state will allow 327 school districts and 119 accredited nonpublic schools to make their own recommendations.

“It is not recommended to cover your face with all staff and students,” the document says. “Allow personal use of facial coatings by staff and students.”

He also encouraged educators to “teach and reinforce the prevention of stigma associated with the use or non-use of facial covering to support a respectful, inclusive, and supportive school environment.”

The Iowa Department of Education released a follow-up statement on Friday to provide “further clarification,” adding that additional information on health and safety measures will be released “in the near future.”

“We recognize that face masks can be an important tool to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” the department said.

The state’s departments of education and public health said they have not recommended the mask requirements “due to the considerable implications for that policy,” but said that schools may require masks if they so choose.

Jean Hessburg, a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), the state’s teachers union, criticized the state for not complying with federal government guidelines for restrictions on public places in a statement to the Des Moines Registry .

“It is a gamble and an obscene one that the Governor and the Department of Education are betting on the health and safety of our students, our staff and the school’s employees,” Hessburg told the outlet. “This virus has shown that it knows no bounds, and students can take the virus to their families and devastate a family.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends covering your face in public places where social distancing measures cannot be maintained.

The CDC does not recommend that schools screen students or staff upon entering the building because a symptom is not indicative of a communicable disease. Some people may be sick and have no symptoms, according to the Iowa guide.

The state’s notice states that schools must provide adequate personal protective equipment and training for employees who are at medium to high risk of exposure or as determined by their job-related task.

“Schools may not be able to guarantee that physical distance can be met in all school settings throughout the school day, during school activities or with transportation,” the document says.

School districts have until July 1 to submit “return to learn” plans to the Iowa Department of Education, including commitments to provide both in-person and virtual learning options.

Districts, however, are not yet required to address how they plan to handle issues like face coverage and social distancing, The Register noted. Parents may not know the exact mandates until the school year begins in mid or late August.

Thursday’s guide came a day before Iowa topped 700 COVID-19 deaths. The state reported 27,555 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday.

The neighboring state of Iowa, Illinois, announced this week that it would require all students and teachers to wear face covers, receive temperature controls, and practice social distancing.

The state will also provide free fabric facial masks, totaling 2.5 million, to each public school teacher, staff member, and student.

“In Illinois, a child’s ability to pay for or purchase a face covering should have no impact on whether he can go to school, and will not,” said Governor JB Pritzker (D).