Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law banning mask mandates in schools for students, staff

Though the CDC has lifted mask mandates for vaccinated people, the agency continues to recommend schoolchildren continue to wear masks.

Updated: May 21, 2021 - 12:05am

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday signed a law prohibiting students and staff from being forced to wear masks while in schools, following updated mask guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the law signed by Reynolds states that employees and students can no longer be required by school board officials or superintendents to wear any type of mask or facial covering while on school property, exceptions will be made for "an extracurricular or instructional purpose," the Des Moines Register reported.

The bill, which was signed into effect early Thursday morning, passed in the House with a 53-35 vote, and with 29-17 vote in the Senate.

"It is a shame our elected leaders feel the need to end this historically difficult year on such an uninformed note," Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek explained in a statement.

"A bill signed into law shortly after midnight by Gov. Kim Reynolds supersedes CDC recommendations and Polk County Health Department guidance that schools continue to require masks until the end of the school year for the health and safety of unvaccinated students and staff," Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) wrote on Twitter in response to the new law being passed.

"Due to the size of our district, limited space in our buildings and the number of students still unvaccinated, DMPS continues to strongly encourage masks while indoors."

Ankeny Community School District issued a statement Thursday morning that the decision to wear masks and face coverings would be left up to students and faculty, but that they "strongly recommend that face coverings be worn, in alignment with the guidance from the CDC that individuals who have not been vaccinated continue to wear masks indoors."

"Additionally, it is still vitally important that any students or staff members who are feeling ill stay home," the statement continued.

Following updated guidance from the CDC regarding mask requirements indoors for vaccinated people, several states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and West Virginia have updated their mask mandates.

Though the CDC has lifted outdoor and indoor mask mandates for vaccinated people, the agency continues to recommend that children continue to wear masks and practice social distancing while in school at least until the end of the school year.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky issued a statement May 12 that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was able to be used on children ages 12-through 15-years-old, while children under 12 are still not able to receive any COVID-19 vaccine.

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