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Ankeny School Board lifts mask requirement; Waukee to continue discussion on Return to Learn plans

Both schools held board meetings Tuesday night to go over COVID-19 plans for their districts. Ankeny students and staff no longer need masks starting Wednesday.

WAUKEE, Iowa — Two central Iowa school boards discussed their Return to Learn plans Tuesday night as the holidays creep closer and COVID-19 activity increases throughout the state. 

The Ankeny Community School District will no longer have a mask mandate following its board meeting Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Waukee Community School District's discussions will continue. 

So, what do the plans look like? 

Over in Ankney, the school board looked to continue its current Return to Learn plan. According to the agenda for Tuesday night, Superintendent Dr. Erick Pruitt recommended the board approve the continuation of its Sept. 21, 2021 plan

However, the board instead voted 4-3 to lift the district's mask requirement, effective on Wednesday, after a brief discussion. Some board members hoped to leave the mandate in effect until Dec. 21 so that kids could be protected before the holiday break. 

The Waukee School Board held its special meeting to discuss its proposed plan for the spring semester. Board members didn't vote on the plan Tuesday night, however. 

The plan lists out changes to be approved by the board, including daily updates on the district's COVID dashboard and allowing visitors to enter PK-6 school buildings. 

The plan also removes the district's online learning option for K-6 families with one or more members who are considered to have a significant health condition. The proposal doesn't require masks but it strongly encourages their use for all individuals. 

The district's proposed plan also adds a section about absence rates. That section is as follows: 

  • If a school building reaches 10%, or more, in absence rate as defined by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and has 5%, or more, of the students and staff with known cases of COVID, for three consecutive school days, the school will move to required masking for five consecutive school days. If the numbers remain at the initial threshold for a move to masking, or higher, required masking will continue until they are not met. 
  • Both of these pieces of data - the daily attendance rate defined by the IDPH calculation and known COVID cases - are available on the district COVID dashboard, and updated daily. 
    • Other pieces of data may be a consideration during the discussion.
  • A staffing shortage could be considered as a discussion item.

Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said schools need to prioritize the health and safety of students right now. 

"We all need to remember that we need to protect our students and our staff from contracting the virus. And all conversations need to take place and every voice needs to be heard when these decisions are being made," Beranek said. "As we see our positivity rates increase, it's important for us to follow those guidelines to stop the spread."

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