DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa's largest school district is planning to require face masks for its students and staff in the fall.
The Iowa Department of Education's latest guidance, however, did not make such coverings mandatory for schools to return.
"We intend to require face masks of our students and staff to return to school," Des Moines Public Schools Director of Communications Phil Roeder said. "It's one of the proven things that help prevent the spread of coronavirus. In our case, we have 40,000 people that go in and out of our buildings—between students and staff and volunteers—on any given school day."
School districts across the state have until July 1 to submit their Return to Learn plans.
Roeder said the move is a "small step" to help out the community's overall health, and that the district is equipped to help those who may not have a mask.
"We serve a very large, diverse district with people at all income levels," Roeder said. "And so if this is a challenge for students, we're going to help meet that challenge for them."
DMPS is also taking inventory of current supplies.
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.
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