Mount Vernon Community School District Families, Staff Members, and Community Members:
Recently, Linn County Public Health officials sent a letter to all Linn County school districts, encouraging the districts to challenge the law passed in May of 2021 that prohibits school districts from putting into place any mask mandates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They did so based on their concerns with the spread of the virus, especially the increased spread of the virus among younger people including those under twelve who have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Once this letter was made public, many community members in the various districts reached out to superintendents and school board members to request that the districts follow the recommendation of Linn County Public Health. School districts expressed concern that the request from Linn County Public Health was asking districts to defy the law, something that the superintendents felt put the districts in legal jeopardy in a variety of ways. Attached to this email is a letter that the Linn County Superintendents have sent to Linn County Health, expressing why we feel we are not in a position to circumvent the law as passed by the Iowa Legislature in the spring of 2021.
There is another event related to the COVID-19 pandemic taking place tomorrow of which I feel you should be aware. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of students with disabilities to challenge the law that prohibits school districts from putting into place a mask mandate. There is a preliminary hearing on this matter that takes place tomorrow in Des Moines. While the judge in the case can take a variety of actions tomorrow, one possible action could be the immediate issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that precludes the State of Iowa from continuing to enforce the prohibition against mask mandates. The effect of such an order would be to potentially allow individual districts to consider putting a mask mandate in place if they feel it is in the best interests of their school communities to do so. Districts who wish to put a mask mandate in place would need to approve this through a vote of its School Board.
The next regularly scheduled meeting for the MVCSD School Board is this Monday, September 13, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Lobby. One of the agenda items for the meeting is an update on the District’s COVID-19 response, a regular agenda item that has been a part of Board meetings for the past year and a half. The Board is being provided with a series of COVID-related documents to review; including the correspondence from Linn County Public Health, the corresponding response to this letter from the Linn County Superintendents, and the letter that is being sent to families when the District becomes aware of positive COVID-19 tests in our schools. It can also be assumed that the results of the preliminary hearing tomorrow will be a topic of conversation during the Board meeting. We will also review the updated data for COVID-19 cases in the District, data that is updated and shared on our website each Friday.
I am providing you this information as part of my continued goal to be open and transparent with you regarding all things related to COVID-19. Thanks again for all you are doing to stay safe.