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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!