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Iowa parents give failing grade to lack of statewide face mask requirement for schools

In a statement, the Iowa Department of Education said their guidance "needs further clarification."

DES MOINES, Iowa — Parents are speaking out about the state’s school reopening guidelines released on Thursday.

“My initial reaction was shock, and I thought it was a joke,” said Emily Elliott, a concerned parent. “I heard about it from a friend and I was like, 'where did you get that information?' That’s not real. I had to track to track it down myself because it couldn't possibly be coming from our government.”

Elliott has an eighth grader in the Des Moines Public Schools district. Her biggest issue with the guidelines are that masks and social distancing are not a requirement.

“I'm not allowing him to go into the grocery store, especially not without a mask on. So the idea that i would send him to school without a mask is laughable.”

Elliott is not alone.

Natasha Sayles has two children, one of which will be starting kindergarten in the Waukee Community School District in the fall.

“Honestly, we were taken aback," Sayles said. "Like, okay yes, sanitize but no you don't have to wear a mask. No, kids, don't have to have their temperatures taken, staff doesn't have to. It just felt like there wasn't any guidance.”

Waukee has yet to give its own guidelines to parents, while Des Moines Public Schools has already stated that masks will be required in the fall.

But even still, after not receiving assurance from the state's plan, they have to make the tough decision whether or not to send their kids to school this fall.

"We’re in a unique situation where it’s just kindergarten," Sayles said. "Should we just hold her back and wait until next year?”

“I for one would rather be safe and have my child home learning virtually," Elliott added. "Or at least have our children protected wearing masks if they are going back in person to school.”

RELATED: Des Moines Public Schools on fall return: 'We intend to require face masks'

The Iowa Department of Education issued the following statement Friday: 

The Iowa Department of Education, in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Public Health, has developed reopening guidance that takes into account 327 school districts and 119 accredited nonpublic schools, all with different circumstances; and the individual needs of more than 550,000 schoolchildren as well as teachers and other school staff in our state.

The Department of Education acknowledges that the reopening guidance released Thursday, June 25, needs further clarification, and will release additional information in the near future as well as health and safety measures for teachers to use to assist students and families. An example of the health and safety work we have already delivered for schools to use in their Return-to-Learn work is available here. This is a sample of materials available to schools that helps teach students about mitigation strategies such as handwashing and distancing from others.

We recognize that face masks can be an important tool to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health do not recommend that districts and nonpublic schools require masks for all students and staff because of the considerable implications for such a policy. However, schools may decide to require masks based on their individual situations and data.

The Iowa Department of Education will continue to rely on the expertise of the Iowa Department of Public Health to support schools and communities during this reopening process to ensure all students and families can return to school safely. 

RELATED: ISEA calls education guidance 'irresponsible and tragic'

RELATED: ISEA calls education guidance 'irresponsible and tragic'

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