Parents and school board members were surprised after the Sioux City Schools sent out a notice today that all students must wear masks on school buses to comply with federal law.

The school board declined to institute a mask mandate in Sioux City school buildings at their meeting last week. Board member Dan Greenwell says he thought the board was going to discuss the bus issue next Monday. “But apparently, the administration decided to implement it immediately — and that was on the advice of counsel I think…it surprised all of us on the speed and the requirement,” Greenwell says.

He says it’s based on the legal interpretation. “We are subject to that federal requirement. We checked for the state’s interpretation and the Department of Education’s interpretation indicated that we should the federal guidelines required for the masks,” he says.

Greenwell says it creates an unusual situation for wearing masks. “Get on the bus in the morning and you put on your mask during the bus trip and then you take your mask off. On again, off again. I apologize to the citizens for this, it’s just inconsistent and not in line with what the board approved at the last meeting,” according to Greenwell. “If it’s a rule, it’s a rule and if it’s a law, it’s a law. I think we have to follow the law. I would not recommend not doing it.”

The bus mask mandate includes travel for extra-curricular activities as well as transportation to and from school. The Sioux City Schools have declined any comment on the issue — saying their new release on the issue explains the guidance.

(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)