Charles City Board of Education approves targeted mask-wearing plan
By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charles City Community School District Board of Directors unanimously approved a targeted mitigation plan for mask-wearing, which would be implemented in buildings or specific areas that are going through a COVID-19 outbreak. Face coverings will be required only when health conditions deteriorate.
“This plan would use face coverings in a targeted strategy, and only use them for 10 days at a time when we hit some of those markers,” said Superintendent Mike Fisher, who called the strategy a win-win situation.
“We believe that this is a plan that both respects those who are uncomfortable with mandatory mask requirements but also responds to the issue that if we do have an outbreak, we know that research shows that face coverings can help mitigate an outbreak,” he said.
According to the plan, which was approved at Monday’s meeting, if there is a major outbreak of COVID-19 within a student population, face coverings use shall be implemented in a targeted classroom, grade level, or campus to prevent potential shutdown due to student absences, lack of staff, or by Public Health Department order.
A major outbreak would be defined as 5% of a building’s student population confirmed positive with COVID at one time and/or the rolling three-day illness absence average is 7% or more. A major outbreak in elementary classrooms Pre-K to fourth grade will be triggered with three or more confirmed cases occurring at one time.
The plan goes into effect immediately.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered the state of Iowa to immediately halt enforcement of a new law that prohibits school boards from ordering masks to be worn. The state is challenging that decision, but on Monday the order was extended for two weeks.
School districts throughout the state of Iowa have re-instituted mask mandates in various forms since that ruling.
Fisher said the district has consulted with a variety of experts, including local and regional health personnel, legal experts, local teachers, local parents and area superintendents. He also said that Floyd County Public Health reviewed and supports the plan.
According to the established metrics, no campus currently needs to implement these procedures, Fisher said, calling the steps proactive.
“We are using face coverings as a targeted tool only where and when necessary,” Fisher said. “Our goal is to use this tool to keep schools open.”
If targeted face coverings need to be used, they will only be utilized in increments of 10 days. If the outbreak persists, the policy may be extended in 10-day increments until the levels fall below the matrix targets.
“We are using a matrix that is not based on thoughts and feelings but on science,” Fisher said. “It’s also predictable for our students and our community.”
Face coverings will be expected to be used by students and staff on all buses per federal order of the CDC and DOT. Local schools are now required to comply with federal regulations. If students do not already have a face covering, they will be handed one by the driver upon their entrance to the bus and are expected to use it.
Students may seek a medical or religious exemption if needed from using a face covering on the bus or if there is the use of a targeted strategy.
“It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that I would rather have a full mask mandate,” said Director Pat Rottinghaus. “I’m compromising and going along with this.”
Fisher’s initial proposal set the rolling three-day illness absence average at 10%. Director Missy Freund made a motion to approve that proposal, but it died without a second.
Rottinghaus said that she though 10% was a little high, and that 7% seemed like a more reasonable number.
“During a flu breakout, 10% is the number where you have to close your school down,” she said. “It would be good to be ahead of that.”
Director Scott Dight also thought that 7% was a better number.
“With so many variables in play, 10% seems too high to me,” Dight said. “Other than that, I like everything that you’ve come up with.”
Dight made a motion to approve the same proposal, at the 7% number, and Rottinghaus seconded. That motion passed unanimously.