Iowa School Districts Adjust In-Person Graduation Plans After New State Law Bans Masks Mandates

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Waukee High School (WHO 13)

WAUKEE, Iowa– The new state law banning mask mandates has caught many school districts off guard going into a weekend filled with graduations. Democratic Senator Sarah Trone Garriott said after talking to local educators, it was clear that this ban on mask requirements would impact their plans for upcoming commencement ceremonies.

“I know they had made their plans for graduation and for special events, for year-end celebrations, for sports sporting events, and now they have to reconceive all of that on unknown notice,” Sen. Garriott said.

Waukee has the largest high school in central Iowa, with 730 seniors graduating at Waukee on Monday. Up to 5,000 guests attend their graduations on average.

The principal at Waukee High School, Cary Justmann, said the district had three key guidelines when planning this larger event, limited seating, asking families to sit in pods, and a mask mandate. 

After Thursday, that plan dramatically changed as capacity limits were lifted and the governor signed off on banning mask requirements. 

However, Justmann said the district still plans on creating a welcoming environment, no matter what families choose to do. 

“We’re encouraging those that are not vaccinated to still wear masks because we want everyone to feel comfortable. That’s our bottom line,” Justmann said. “Our kids have worked for 13 years for this and we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. We want everyone to be able to come and celebrate.”

Johnston Community School District is having its graduation this Sunday. The district says this ban on masks requirement was unexpected but they’ve learned how to pivot quickly during the pandemic. 

“We’re hearing both sides with some parents, students and staff are very happy that we no longer require masks in school. And of course, you have the other side of parents, students and staff who are continuing to wear their masks,” Director of Communications for Johnston, Laura Sprague said. “We support both decisions for the respective reasons that people have them.” 

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