PELLA — The Pella School Board rejected a motion requiring masks on public transportation, citing Iowa’s law banning such mandates despite recommendations to the contrary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The board spoke about the topic at a special session Monday, as students will return to the district’s halls on Aug. 24.
On June 10, the CDC issued an order stating masks are required on public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs.
However, a mandate would conflict with Iowa House Bill 847, which was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. The bill prohibits Iowa schools, cities and counties from requiring masks.
“There are districts that will do that this year,” Superintendent Greg Ebeling said. “There are other districts that will have all the options, other districts that will say we recommend certain ways.”
Vice President Timothy Tripp made a case supporting masks in school buses by examining the language used in the Iowa Code, saying it’s possible school buses may not be included in the legislation.
“My concern has always been protecting our most vulnerable students and teachers and staff, and custodians,” Tripp said. “. . .I think if one teacher struggles with health issues, and if I can protect that teacher by keeping her group consistent or limiting the outside contacts they have as they come into your classroom, I think we've accomplished something.”
However, other board members were opposed to the idea, saying the mandate will make their policy too inconsistent.
“I don't think we want to put bus drivers in a position where they're going to have to answer a lot of questions and to try to enforce something,” School Board Director Gary Coppock said. “Throughout all of this, it's been hard to be consistent, but I think lack of consistency erodes credibility and leadership.”
School Board Director Annette Smith echoed the same sentiment.
“It should be optional, and if they feel more safe wearing the mask and they want to, then they should be able to,” Smith said.
While discussing COVID-19, Ebeling said the school district will implement Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Plan (ESSER).
The ESSER plan consists of using federal money for schools to help provide relief for students and staff.
“We still are going to do mitigation strategies, we're still planning on doing extra cleaning, we're still planning on lots of things, but it’s not the same level of contact tracing that we did last year,” Ebeling said.
Additionally, the Board approved a memorandum between Central College Department of Education and Pella Community Schools. The program will be implemented during the fall semester of 2021 and the spring semester of 2022.
Approximately 48 students in 3rd or 4th grade will be identified for the program and divided into three classrooms of 16 students each by Pella Schools staff. Students from Central will assist Pella students who need extra support in certain subjects.
The board also approved a draft of the school district’s new mission and vision. According to the presentation, the new vision is “preparing everyone to learn, lead, and achieve.” Their new mission will be “pursuing excellence, building relationships, and developing potential.”
Along with a new mission and vision, the board approved of a new jingle for the school district.
The next Pella School Board meeting will be on Monday, Aug. 23, beginning at 4:30 p.m.