Now that a federal judge ordered the state of Iowa to halt the enforcement of a law that prevents local school boards from ordering masks be worn in the classroom, don’t expect an immediate decision from Waterloo officials on how the district moves forward.

Superintendent Jane Lindaman told the Board of Education Monday night that she learned of the judge’s ruling just two hours before the board's regular meeting. Lindaman said, in that short period of time, she had already heard from several people on both sides of the issue.

"The topic of masks is polarizing," the superintendent admitted. "We are already getting emails from people starting to way in -- 'do not mandate masks, you should mandate masks'. We have about 7,000 different families in Waterloo and there's a lot of different opinions."

Lindaman said district officials will rely on legal guidance and feedback from others before they make any decision on requiring masks in school.

"Since the beginning of COVID, I have not one time made a unilateral decision from my desk and my desk only," Lindaman said. "I don’t do that, especially when we're navigating through something I’m unfamiliar with. For me to believe that I just snap my figures and come up with the right decision without hearing from people, without listening, without getting advisement –- whether its legal guidance or health advisement -– I can’t do that and I won’t do that.

Dr. Jane Lindaman / Courtesy: Waterloo School District
Dr. Jane Lindaman / Courtesy: Waterloo School District

"I have not made a unilateral decision since this started," Lindaman continued. "We have used input from health officials. We’ve listened to parents, we’ve talked with students and we’ve talked with staff. We’ve done our due diligence and we'll do that now."

Lindaman planned to meet with her administrative team after Monday's meeting to discuss the district's options.

The bill allowing parents to decide if their child should wear a mask to school was passed by the Iowa legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May.

Earlier this month, 11 parents of students with disabilities and a disability rights group filed a federal lawsuit against the state over the law. Reynolds, Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo and 10 schools districts -- including Waterloo -- were named as defendants in the suit.

In his ruling Monday, Judge Robert Pratt said that the law substantially increases the risk of children with health conditions of contracting COVID-19. Before issuing the order, Pratt said he looked at data on the effectiveness of wearing masks in school. The data included recommendations from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Reynolds has indicated the state will appeal Pratt's ruling.

State of Iowa
State of Iowa

Waterloo School District - Welcome Signs

With an enrollment of more than 10,500 students, the Waterloo School District is one of the 10 largest of Iowa’s 377 public school systems. The district currently operates two regular high schools, one alternative high school, four middle schools,11 elementary schools and a regional career center. The district includes the cities of Waterloo, Elk Run Heights, Evansdale, Gilbertville, Raymond, part of Cedar Falls, and some unincorporated areas of Black Hawk County.

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