Cedar Rapids schools will require face masks starting Wednesday

Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

The Cedar Rapids School District will “reinstate a mask mandate for all staff, students, and visitors during compulsory education hours (school day) as well as our daycare environments,” Superintendent Noreen Bush said in an email to district families and staff on Tuesday.

The mandate goes into effect on Wednesday.

CRCSD, like other large school districts in Iowa, had a mask mandate in place until Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law in May, HF 847, that stripped school districts of the power to mandate masks, even though both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all schools have universal mask mandates. The district is now able to require masking, because a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Monday, blocking the state from enforcing HF 847.

“Iowa’s mask mandate ban makes it dangerous for disabled or immunocompromised children to attend school, but several pediatricians opine it is dangerous for healthy siblings to attend school in person because they risk carrying the virus back to their disabled or immunocompromised siblings,” Judge Robert Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa wrote in his decision.

Pratt’s decision came in a case filed by 11 Iowa families on behalf of their school-age children, who are at a heightened risk from COVID-19 because of medical conditions.

“It’s terrifying for a parent to have to worry every day about the physical safety of their child,” Heather Lynn Preston, one of the parents who brought the lawsuit, said when it was filed on Sept. 3. “And to have to choose between their child keeping up their education, and their child becoming seriously ill and perhaps even dying.”

“That’s a choice no parent should have to make.”

CRCSD, the second largest school district in the state, joins Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest district, in reimposing a universal mask mandate. DMPS announced its action on Monday night. That mandate also takes effect on Wednesday.

Iowa City Community Schools is expected to reimpose its mask mandate, too. A decision on the matter will be made at the school board meeting on Tuesday evening.

CRCSD has a COVID-19 dashboard online, which is updated weekly. Its most recent update, covering Sept. 3-9, lists 96 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and nine cases among staff.

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