Linn-Mar announced a special session for its Board of Directors for Thursday afternoon at 1:00 PM. According to the published agenda, district Superintendent Shannon Bisgard, “will facilitate a discussion on proposed updates to the Return-to-Learn plan.”
During Monday night’s school board meeting, Bisgard commented a special session was on the table after a recent federal court decision on face masks. That afternoon, federal district court Senior Judge Robert Pratt issued a temporary restraining order preventing the State from enforcing a ban on school districts requiring face masks.
Governor Kim Reynolds issued a statement saying, “We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties.” Pratt’s order contradicts a state court judge’s opinion upholding the law last week.
Within forty-eight hours of the decision, Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids school districts established mask requirements for their students, staff and visitors.
The timing of Pratt’s order did not afford the Linn-Mar enough time to put the topic on their regular board meeting agenda and according to Bisgard, “1:00 PM was chosen because that was simply the only other time … all board members could be present.” State law requires meeting agendas to be published twenty-four hours in advance.
Linn-Mar administration warned that because the meeting was being held during the school day at the Learning Resources Center, parking, “will be limited,” with students and employees using the spaces. The meeting will be live streamed for those who cannot attend in-person the daytime session.
Special school board meetings are relatively infrequent occurrences, but when they are conducted, daytime meetings are not unusual.
The issue around requiring face masks remains controversial. In August, members of the Linn County Board of Health suggested a legal interpretation districts could use to require face coverings. In a September 9 response, the superintendents for all of Linn County’s schools, “are required to follow the law, regardless of public or personal opinion or belief.”
Emotional comments on masks dominated board meeting public comment periods through the summer and continue into the new school year. Protests over mask requirements occurred at a number of elementary schools during the 2020-21 spring semester.
Linn-Mar’s Covid-19 information page information page reports thirty-two students and, “fewer than 6,” staff members testing positive between September 6 and September 10. Eight students are in the elementary schools, twelve were reported across the intermediate and middle school buildings with another twelve in the high school.
According to the latest Linn County status update, residents reported 797 cases from 9/5 to 9/11, down seventy-one from the previous week, but higher than August’s numbers.
There is no Public Comment option for the special meeting.