No decision yet from school district on masks
Marshalltown Community School District again has the ability to enact a mask mandate.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt ruled on Monday to halt the enforcement of a law banning mask mandates in public schools with a temporary restraining order in effect immediately.
Hours after the decision, Iowa’s largest school district Des Moines public schools enacted a mask mandate taking effect Wednesday. More school districts across Iowa reported they will discuss the ruling and consider options at upcoming school board meetings, including districts in Ankeny and Iowa City.
Marshalltown Community School District Superintendent Theron Schutte said if the school district were to make any change in their current practices, then the item would be on the agenda at the next school board meeting.
The next Marshalltown Community School District Board of Education regular meeting will be at 5 p.m., on Monday.
Schutte said while the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis nationally, he wants to take time to give the issue thought and consult Marshall County Public Health, the school district’s lead nurse and school board members to get a sense of what the best course of action might be.
“I don’t think there’s a compelling reason to have to make a decision today as a result of what happened yesterday, but obviously I’m going to take some time to determine how best to approach any kind of recommendation that we would put before the board,” Schutte said.
He said the district will have to consider changes in circumstances from last school year, such as more students and staff have had the opportunity to become vaccinated against COVID-19.
“My primary concerns right now would be at our elementary and intermediate levels where kids have not been eligible to become vaccinated, which means they or any of their family members would be at risk,” Schutte said. “Those are the types of things that I’m thinking about as it relates to making any kind of recommendation to our board to do anything differently than what we’ve been doing.”
Rep. Sue Cahill (D-Marshalltown) and Title 1 Instructor at Marshalltown Community School District provided her personal views on the ruling as a lawmaker. She said her views do not represent the Marshalltown Community School District.
Cahill voted against legislation banning mask mandates in public schools and believes public schools should mandate mask wearing.
“I think that we’ve got to protect the kids that come in our doors and the staff that work with them and the families that surround us all,” Cahill said. “I think that the data has shown that masks are an effective way to slow down the spread of the disease and we’ve got to fight with everything we can to get this to slow down.”
Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson said masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in all cases, not just schools. On if she believes Marshalltown Community School District should implement a mask mandate, she said she does not have the jurisdiction.
“I’m going to leave that up to the schools to decide,” Thompson said. “I know they want to take really good care of everybody so they’ll do the best they can.”
The federal judge’s decision sided with parents of students with disabilities who are at higher risk for COVID-19, who argued the ban on mask mandates affected their children’s access to education.
The law, House File 847, was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May and she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. The Marshalltown Community School District required masks in schools until the law was signed.
Schutte in reaction to the news in May said the decision from Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature was a strike against local control of school districts.
“Local control as far as school districts are concerned, has always been vested in the eligible residents voting in people to represent them on the school board in order to make the decisions based on administrative recommendation,” Schutte said in May. “The legislature and governor’s office is now making decisions that used to be within the control of local communities and school boards versus the state.”
The federal judge’s ruling only applies to public schools, meaning local governments in Iowa are still barred by law from enacting a mask mandate.
Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or