Board OKs Return to Learn plan

No decision yet following injunction on mask ban

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Webster City school board president Beth Van Diest, Superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross and board secretary Kathy Biere, review the district’s Return to Learn plan which was approved Monday night. A decision on whether or not masks will be required in Webster City schools has yet to be made following an injunction issued by a federal judge concerning Gov. Kim Reynolds’ ban on mask mandates for school districts.

The Webster City school board Monday approved the Return to Learn Plan for the fall 2021 school session, but made no decision on whether a mask mandate would be implemented after a federal judge issued an injunction to an order issued by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May.

The court ordered the state of Iowa to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Board member Rich Stroner asked if superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross was prepared to discuss the matter Monday.

“I haven’t received any guidance on this,” Ross said. “And we need to have some guidance.”

Ross said she hadn’t yet had time to review the ruling handed down by Judge Robert Pratt on Monday.

“At this point in time, I would recommend that we postpone the matter until the next board meeting or have a special meeting to discuss it,” Ross said.

“I’ve already received phone calls about this,” Stroner told the board.

Board member Marlin Pruismann reported that he had talked to Cindi Sweedler, one of the district’s school nurses.

“I asked her how things were going at school with regards to COVID. She told me her biggest disappointment was parents who had tested positive and failed to relay that information and still sent their children to school after they showed some symptoms,” he said. “We need to get the word out that if you test positive, let the school know.”

Stroner related the story of a person who had tested negative on the rapid test but then tested positive on the PCR. The person is asymptomatic and has infected other family members, Stroner said, adding that the family believes it was an asymptomatic student that brought the virus home.

“We need to be really cautious and I hope people will report (when they test positive),” he said. “But I’m hearing that a lot of parents aren’t.”

Stroner said people are taking the rapid test at home themselves.

“They don’t have to tell anyone, and that’s a scary thing,” he said.

“We just have to keep sending the same message — be honest,” Pruismann said.

The updated Return to Learn plan was approved by the board Monday night.

“With the conflicting information on masks, it’s going to be a fluid situation again this year,” Ross told the board. She said the district strongly encourages and supports the wearing of masks by students and staff.

“We’re also hearing that face coverings last year also reduced the incidence of flu in the community,” she said.

The superintendent said the district is still working on social distancing plans. Online learning options are not available this year, but for those quarantined at home, the district is providing instructional environments for them while they are home.

Free breakfasts and lunches will continue to be offered throughout the year for all students, Ross said, but families and staff members with outstanding meal accounts from the past will still have to pay those.

“It doesn’t backfill those outstanding accounts,” she said.

Ross said the district continues to use the electrostatic cleaning processes used last year.

She said the district had re-established the COVID Dashboard on the district website,

Ross also said students and staff should not take Tylenol and other fever-reducing medications before coming to school.

“Fever is one of the symptoms of COVID and if you’re running a fever, you still have the ability to infect other people,” she said. She encouraged students to bring a doctor’s note if they have sinus infections, colds and other illnesses that may present much like COVID.

“Honestly, that will help us out a lot, and we won’t have to worry if they are positive or not,” she said.

The Return to Learn plan will be placed on the district website so families can access the full document.

“If there are updates, we’ll bring it back to the board,” Ross said. “As Rich (Stroner) pointed out, I think we’re going to have a changing environment again.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved professional development contracts with Solution Tree and Compass PD;

• Accepted two gifts to the district, one in the amount of $500 from the family of Mark Vance in honor of his love of Lynx athletics; and one from Arlo Van Diest for the purchase of a timing system for the Lynx Cross Country and Track and Field programs;

• Approved fundraising requests from the Webster City FFA Chapter, high school Spanish Club and middle school choir;

• Approved the contract recommendation of Sunshine Duffy as an elementary paraeducator;

• Approved the disposal of two sets of outdated curriculum materials;

• Approved the survey for the rental house at Blairsburg which is currently on the market;

• Approved lane changes for five teachers who have met the required criteria.


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