In a special meeting Oct. 6, the Midland school board made the move to adjust their mask guidance, requiring it for students and staff when they are in the building or using school transportation, when social distancing is not possible.
The move to reevaluate the district’s mask policy came after the Iowa Department of Public Health changed their guidelines when it comes to when individuals would need to quarantine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now defines close contacts as persons within 6 feet of each other for 15 minutes or longer, regardless of mask use. Sept. 29, the State of Iowa announced that if both individuals are wearing masks in non-residential, non-households or non-healthcare settings, regardless of distance or duration, they are not considered close contacts.
Under the guidelines, gators and face shields do not count.
While masks were strongly recommended, they were not required. With students in person at both the elementary and secondary buildings, such measures would ensure that if there was a positive case connected to learning in the district, they would be able to keep kids in school.
“When it hits us, it’s not that we’re going to be quarantining a couple of students, we’re going to be quarantining a lot of kids at one time. That’s where my heartstrings go,” Principal Carol Guenther said.
“Keeping our kids in the building is the most important thing,” Superintendent Todd Hawley said.
Hawley said in addition to the educational aspect, the social-emotional aspect and making sure kids got meals were also important. While the district had been lucky so far, Hawley wanted to make sure the district was prepared.
At the elementary, Principal Deanna Martens said that if they had to quarantine entire classes, they don’t have one-to-one devices, so stuff would have to be sent home using pencil and paper.
Staff said they were also working with students to explain that passing time is not the important time for masks, it’s when students are in classrooms with the same kids for an extended period of time.
Masks would not be required throughout the entire day. Times when mask breaks could be taken include at recess or in the hallways during passing and during large group or classroom instruction if there is space to maintain the social distancing guidelines within the rooms.
When it comes to activities, the new direction would allow school officials to enforce mask wearing in student sections. Teams would make their own policies for those participating in athletics, but it was implied that masks would be worn by coaches and athletes that were on the bench or sidelines for an extended period. Adult fans are still being strongly encouraged to wear their masks.
Even with the new guidelines, Hawley said it’s still important for symptoms to be monitored and in a letter had tips for families.
1. Physically distance ourselves as much as possible.
2. Wear masks when we cannot be physically distant.
3. Wash hands often.
4. Sanitize our school facilities carefully.
5. Staff and students must stay home if they are ill.
The new rules went into effect Monday, Oct. 12. If students were not able to provide their own masks, masks would be provided.