MASON CITY — The Mason City School Board Monday night unanimously approved a mask policy that mandates mask usage inside a school building when the illness rate inside that building reaches seven percent or more, with the requirement being lifted once the illness rate drops below five percent. That would include all illnesses, not just COVID-19.
The board in its early discussion about the subject was split on whether there should be a hard full-time mandate or whether there should be a hybrid alternative. The board gave its approval saying that further data gathered on the subject could mean they will revisit the matter during a future meeting.
Superintendent Dave Versteeg says nurses would report the information each day with parents being immediately notified if a building went over the seven percent rate. “We do that at the end of every day, and that nurse can report to us, and we can send out a notice to those parents that evening, saying ‘building x’ hit the threshold, so tomorrow we will we will wear a mask.”
Board member Jodi Draper says the compromise tries to address the best for staff and students while at the same time hearing from people who don’t want to see any mandate put in place. “Our job is to represent people and look at both of those views, and though can we meet them and greet them together into a middle of the road, and I think we can. I think we can keep our teachers safe, our students safe, our children safe that come in and out of the buildings with special needs. How do we do that? That’s what people elected us to find out, and to research, and to do.”
Board member Alan Steckman went along with the compromise after wanting to see a full-time mask mandate in the schools, saying that masks worked well in the schools last year. “I’ve had somebody send me a post and said ‘masks do not prevent COVID, it says so on the box’. What the hell box was that? What the hell box? My thinking on it is that seat belts do not prevent death. You can die with a seat belt. You can die with a mask, but generally they prevent death, generally masks prevent death. So I’m voting masks.”
Currently a school district is required to report to the county department of public health when a building reaches a 10% absentee or illness rate so that local public health officials can determine if any further action needs to be taken. The board voted to start the seven-percent policy next Monday to allow Versteeg to draw up further guidelines for students and staff to follow when a mandate is in place.