While reviewing the results of the Central Parent/Stakeholder Survey, the most popular area for improvement was to remove the mandatory face-covering policy. Some of the comments referenced North Butler Community School District who recently made the News for removing their mask mandate.
In my weekly Keystone AEA Superintendents meeting today I posed the question, are districts liable if we remove the mask mandate? The consensus of our group was a resounding yes. After the meeting, I decided to take this a step further and posed the same question to our legal counsel. Here is the response I received:
You are correct. Lifting a mask mandate would potentially expose the District to liability because the guidance of public health officials is to continue to require the use of masks in the school environment. If the District chose not to follow that guidance, the District would no longer be following the provisions under the law which provide immunity to the District for liability if a person was exposed to COVID-19 in the school environment or at a school activity. It appears that some individuals believe that since the governor’s proclamation changed that would have an impact on schools. The provisions in the governor’s proclamations regarding masks did not impact a school district’s ability to put a mask mandate in place. Due to the fact that the CDC has expressed concerns about a potential fourth surge and Iowa’s positivity rate was over 30% last week, now is not the time, for many reasons, for any Iowa school district to lift a mask mandate.
No matter our personal beliefs about mask-wearing, we cannot put the district at risk of liability. With spring/summer sports seasons beginning, I am also not interested in quarantining students who by all signs show they are healthy (if wearing a mask we do not have to quarantine). For these reasons I am asking your support in ensuring your student continues to wear a mask during times social distancing can't be maintained.
Thank you for your ongoing support through this very challenging school year,
Nick Trenkamp, Superintendent/Elementary Principal