DES MOINES, Iowa — Mask mandates remain illegal for Iowa schools, but the state’s largest school district is still heavily promoting mask use on campus.
Des Moines Public Schools launched its “Wearing is Caring” campaign just as the 2021-2022 school year started. Signs encouraging masking are now on most school building entrances and lighted displays remind passersby of the new motto.
“As goes the health of Des Moines Public Schools, so goes the health of Des Moines,” said Des Moines Public Schools communications director Philip Roeder. Wearing that mask is a simple step you can take not just for your own health, but for everyone around you.”
However, school district administrators remain frustrated at the inability to institute a mask mandate, due to a law Iowa legislature passed earlier this year.
“We’re very limited in Iowa in terms of basic, common-sense things we can do,” Roeder said.
The conversation intensified on Thursday as Gov. Kim Reynolds strongly defended the law banning mask mandate during a press conference, even intercepting a question meant for Iowa Public Health Director Dr. Kelly Garcia about masks.
“It is a law at this point,” Reynolds said. “Parents can visit with their doctors, and then they can make an informed decision on what’s the best thing for their child, and that’s where I believe it should stay.”
While Garcia acknowledged the law, she also told the media after the press conference that she does encourage masking in her own family.
“There is a law on the books in Iowa, but that doesn’t mean a parent can’t make their own decision,” Garcia said. “As a parent, I do send my children to school in masks everyday.”
Roeder said the Des Moines School Board will continue to respect the mask mandate ban and will not attempt to challenge it.
“Our school board leadership has been clear that at the end of the day, this rests with the state of Iowa,” Roeder said.
Des Moines Public Schools has also relaunched its COVID-19 dashboard to keep track of cases within the district.