DES MOINES, Iowa — Third-grade teacher Mike Beranek, of West Des Moines, applauded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday when Dir. Rochelle Walensky announced new guidance recommending all teachers, students and staff to mask up during the upcoming school year.
"That is incredibly important to make sure that our communities, our students, and our educators are healthy and safe," Beranek said.
But Baranek, who is also president of the Iowa State Education Association says, after a law passed in May, Iowa educators are now finding themselves in a difficult position.
"Our districts have their hands tied in not being able to require mask mandates in school districts," Beranek said. "Local districts are the ones that are closest to what is happening in that community. And if a school district, if families, if communities believe that the best way forward to make sure that everyone stays healthy and safe is to require mask mandates, then we should follow the philosophy of local control."
Not everyone wants mask mandates to be an option. For months, some Ankeny families protested them.
Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statement Tuesday opposing the CDC guidance altogether. The statement read, in part:
“The Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 guidance telling fully vaccinated Iowans to now wear masks is not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts, but also not grounded in reality or common sense. I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support."
Still, some school districts call Iowa's new law "unfortunate." A spokesperson for Des Moines Public Schools told Local 5:
"When it comes to the two best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – getting vaccinated and wearing a mask – we encourage everyone to listen to actual health experts and do the right thing for themselves and the community. Unfortunately, schools in Iowa can no longer mandate masks so we can only repeat what the experts say and hope people who care about our students will listen."
A spokesperson for West Des Moines Community School District also weighed in.
"As WDMCS prepares to welcome students and staff back in August, we have reviewed our safety mitigation plans that were in place during the 2020-21 school year. While we are not allowed as a public school district to require face masks, we encourage all individuals who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask in district buildings.
Beranek says he hopes parents do their part to encourage children to wear masks before heading to class.