Updated: Reynolds ends school mask mandate

Students, staff, visitors no longer have to wear masks on school property starting May 20.

Early Thursday morning, Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF 847 into law. This bill prevents school districts from mandating masks for all residents on their property, including students, staff, and visitors. This bill is effective immediately, so masks become optional on May 20. 

“The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” said Gov. Reynolds. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties. I want to thank the Iowa Legislature for their quick work in bringing this bill to my desk so that it can be signed into law.”

This bill comes after the CDC updated guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals. However, the CDC recommended for students that are unvaccinated to continue to mask and social distance until the end of the school year, especially students aged 12 and younger. 

With such quick turnaround, school districts across the state are scrambling to continue to protect their students from Covid-19. Superintendent Matt Degner sent an email to parents and staff this morning in response to this new law. 

“While face coverings are no longer required, we strongly encourage families to have their students wear a face covering, especially if they have not received the COVID-19 vaccination. We also recommend that staff continue to wear face coverings while at work and social distancing is not possible or when staff are in group settings,” wrote Degner.

Degner also stressed the importance of students respecting others’ choice of whether or not wearing a mask is appropriate, following the law.

It is okay to disagree on the decision to wear a mask, but it is not okay to pressure others into wearing or not wearing a mask.”

— Principal Colbert

“Bullying and harassment of individuals who choose whether or not to wear a face covering will not be tolerated,” he wrote. 

At 11:43 a.m. on May 20, Principal Justin Colbert sent an email to Liberty students regarding face masks.

“By now, you are most likely aware that a new law was passed early this morning that removes school districts’ abilit[ies] to mandate masks. Despite this new law, ICCSD and Liberty High are still strongly encouraging mask wearing through the remainder of the school year,” the email read.

Colbert’s email echoed what Degner had said in his email, as well.

“I also want to remind our students and staff that wearing a mask in school is now a personal choice. We all need to respect the choice of students and staff who decide to wear a mask, and we also need to respect the choice of students and staff that decide not to wear a mask,” Colbert wrote. “It is okay to disagree on the decision to wear a mask, but it is not okay to pressure others into wearing or not wearing a mask.”

The email to students finished with an encouragement to students for the rest of the school year.

“You have all done a great job of being flexible and adjusting to the changing circumstances this school year. Let’s continue to move forward, make smart choices, and finish the year strong,” he wrote.

Updated: Thursday, May 20, 12:08 p.m.