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Jefferson students, families decide whether or not to wear a mask this school year

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Wednesday night was the Back to School Bash at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, and the carnival atmosphere had an undercurrent of uncertainty.

Iowa law bans mask mandates, but the teachers’ union, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Linn County Public Health are urging everyone in schools, vaccinated or not, to wear masks.

Some of the families said their whole household has been vaccinated for months, but continue to mask up to keep themselves and others safe. Others said they trust their child to make that decision themselves, regardless of what their parent chooses to do.

One student, Rachel Johnson is going to be a freshman at Jefferson this fall. Her mom, Allison Johnson, says they’ve talked only briefly about potential safety risks.

”We haven’t really talked about it,” Johnson said. “I think it’s her decision at this point and I’m pretty comfortable. She makes good choices.”

Johnson said she trusts Rachel to make the right choices in any situation.

Tina Pipkin instills the same trust in her daughter, Mya. Last year, Mya’s freshman year, the Pipkin family made the decision to have Mya attend virtual classes. This year, with Mya returning to in-person, the risk for her and her classmates to go without a mask might be a bit higher.

“Mya has asthma and she is fully vaccinated but we decided it’s in her best interest for her to wear her mask while she’s in school so I definitely encourage that. Hopefully she’ll comply!” Pipkin said.

After last week’s Cedar Rapids School Board Meeting, Superintendent Noreen Bush says they want to try and support every family’s decision.

”If a parent is requesting that their child wear a mask, we’ll do our best to support them in a school environment,” Bush said.

Bush said the same goes for parents who request that their child don’t wear a mask.

“We will absolutely support their children and make sure they feel safe and supported and welcome in school,” Bush said.

Melissa Manis said she appreciates this option for her daughter, Charlotte McVeigh. She says she trusts Charlotte to make her own decisions inside Jefferson High.

“If we need to wear a mask, we’ll wear a mask,” Manis said. “Definitely continue washing hands and keep a little extra distance here and there, things like that.”

Bush said they plan to provide masks for every student if, at any time in the school day, they decide they want to wear one. But with mandates banned in the state of Iowa, it’s being left up to the students and their families to decide on what safety measures to take.

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