Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District is requiring students and staff in grades seven through 12 to wear masks in classrooms where they can’t social distance. Superintendent James Craig says there’s been very little pushback. “I know that there are folks that don’t want to wear the masks, but they’re really doing a good job of doing it here,” Craig says, “and understanding that doing that keeps them safer and keeps them more likely to stay in school and not have to be quarantined at home.”
Sibley-Ocheyedan tightened its social distancing measures two weeks ago. Students in upper grades had to participate in some classes remotely when social distancing wasn’t possible. Craig says with a mask requirement, the district can have all students in its classrooms safely. The West Lyon Community School District in Inwood now requires masks for students and staff in grades seven through 12 when they can’t social distance.
Superintendent Shawn Kreman says before this, a couple of students had already quarantined twice because of close contacts.
“I think the message was, ‘Hey, by masking up, we’re going to better our chances to not be sent home for 14 days.'” Kreman says, “So I think the underlying message, kids got it really quickly.”
Kreman says the district is requiring masks in upper grades only because it’s harder to spread those students at least six feet apart. Unlike elementary kids, those students also move to several classrooms throughout the day. Other Iowa schools have added a mask mandate after the governor’s announcement last month.
This past Wednesday, after Covid cases were identified among staff and students, the school board in the southwest Iowa district of Lenox voted to make mask wearing mandatory during the school day, on school buses and for school activities.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s new guidance says people in schools don’t have to quarantine if they were wearing masks properly while in close contact with an infected person who was also wearing a mask.
(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)