Mount Vernon Community School District Families and Community Members:
The purpose of this letter is to provide you with an update on the District’s response to the
ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Attached to this letter is the District’s Return to Learn/Return to
Open Plan that provides details regarding the District’s approach to dealing with COVID-19.
This plan will be posted on the District’s website, along with weekly COVID-19 data that will be pertinent to the District’s decision-making during the course of the year. This plan is fluid; and may change at any time based on new guidance, laws, and conditions on the ground. While I encourage you to take the time to review the entire plan, here are some of the key points you need to know as of today:

  1. In its meeting on August 9, 2021, The Mount Vernon Community School District School
    Board acknowledged that House File 847 passed by the Iowa State Legislature in May
    of 2021 bans the District and the City of Mount Vernon from putting into place any form
    of a mask mandate. Therefore, the wearing of masks is a family and individual staff
    member decision at this time.
  2. The Board also acknowledged that House File 229 passed by the Iowa State Legislature
    in January of 2021 requires districts to offer students with a 100% in person learning
    option. The District has also chosen to offer students with a remote learning option for
    those interested in this option.
  3. The Board also discussed that both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the
    American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all students, staff, and visitors
    wear masks in the school setting when indoors, and when social distancing of three to
    six feet cannot be consistently maintained.
  4. Currently, the Board recommends that all students, staff, and visitors wear masks
    in the school setting when indoors, and when social distancing of three to six feet
    cannot be consistently maintained.
  5. The Board also recommends the wearing of masks regardless of vaccination status
    when indoors, and when social distancing of three to six feet cannot be consistently
  6. Further, the Board recommends that the District follow a CDC Order from January of
    2021 that requires passengers and drivers to wear masks on school buses, including
    buses operated by public and private school systems. Therefore, the wearing of
    masks will be required for those using school transportation for getting to and
    from school, and for travel related to school activities.
  7. The Board also recommends that all people who are eligible for receiving a COVID-19
    vaccine should do so unless a compelling medical or religious reason precludes them
    from doing so.
  8. Key data that the District will use to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 virus includes
    the number of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19, the COVID-19 positivity
    rate for Linn County, the vaccination rate for the Mount Vernon community, and the
    COVID-19 transmission rate for Linn County. This information will be updated weekly on
    the District’s website.
  9. The schools will institute social distance protocols when possible, but cannot guarantee
    that social distance of three to six feet can be maintained at all times and in all settings.
  10. Food service protocols and offerings will return to pre-pandemic levels in each school.
    The free breakfast and lunch program for all students that was in place for the
    2020-2021 school year will continue for the entirety of the 2021-2022 school year.
  11. Volunteers will be allowed to return to work in the schools. Visitors will be allowed back
    in school on a limited basis, with the building principals having the discretion on how to
    handle requests for visits to the school. Please contact the respective building principals
    if you wish to visit the school for any reason.
  12. Full attendance is being allowed at all events at this time, and live streaming of events
    will continue for many school events. All recommendations for mask wearing apply
    to all school events for participants and crowd/audience members.
  13. Students and staff members who test positive for the COVID-19 virus are subject to
    quarantine. However, close contacts will not automatically need to be quarantined
    due to being a close contact. The school nurses will discuss options with parents for
    those students who are identified as close contacts.
  14. The District has plans in place should it need to go to a fully remote learning situation,
    should there be a significant COVID-19 or other outbreak that would call for the closure
    of school for a period of time.
    Again, this plan is fluid and guidelines could change at any time due to changes in
    guidance, laws, and conditions on the ground related to COVID-19. Any changes to the
    plan and protocols will be communicated immediately to all of you.
    I am fortunate to receive from Cornell College on a regular basis detailed research that assists
    me greatly in making recommendations for the District’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    In a recent message they sent out with their latest data, this line stood out to me: “Overall, our
    area appears to be again defying the headlines.” I think this line expresses what many of us
    have been thinking throughout the pandemic. We understand the COVID-19 has posed a major
    challenge for everyone, and people here have suffered. At the same time, the impact appears
    to be less intense here than in other parts of the country. I attribute that to a combination of our
    community taking COVID-19 very seriously, and a little luck. I also know that we must continue
    to remain vigilant, because the COVID-19 virus is still largely in charge.
    I have a sign in my office that simply states, “Everyone is welcome here.” While the sign is
    focused on welcoming people of all races, creeds, orientations, and beliefs, I think it also applies
    to our current reality in continuing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever it
    is important that we respect one another and support one another despite varying personal
    beliefs on issues like mask wearing and vaccinations. We all bring to the table our own beliefs
    and biases, including me. I need to work hard every day to be open to, and respect beliefs that
    are different from mine. Regrettably, sometimes I fail and you may as well.
    For those of you who embrace freedom in making decisions regarding mask wearing and
    whether or not to be vaccinated, please accept that people on the other side of these issues
    have great fears for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. For those of you who
    believe in the wearing of masks and in being vaccinated, please accept that people on the other
    side are also driven by what they feel is best for them and their loved ones. We can continue to
    debate and discuss the big issues of the day with one another, let’s just make sure we continue
    to do so respectfully.
    Parents, you have a big task between now and August 23rd. Please sit down with your children
    to discuss the reality that some people will be wearing masks in school, while others will not.
    Please let them know that some people in the community and world will be vaccinated and
    some will not. Let them know people are making decisions based on what they think is best,
    and that they have the freedom to do so. A parent at the School Board meeting this week
    challenged us to create a “culture of caring.” This is exactly what we will strive to do as a school
    district, and please know that we are going to support all our students no matter what. What I
    can guarantee you is that I have the most passionate and talented staff members waiting to
    serve your children, staff members who are at their best when times are challenging. Recently,
    we received our scores from the Iowa State Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP). This is
    the required state assessment that students in grade 3-11 take each spring. Our results are
    very positive and reveal that our resilience as students, parents, and staff members has kept our
    students moving forward positively and growing academically. This is who we are when we are
    at our best.
    Let’s get this thing started! I hope you have had a great summer and are ready for a great year!
    Dr. B.