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After significant amount of input, Benton Community chooses no mask mandate

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:20 PM CDT
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VAN HORNE, Iowa (KCRG) - Benton Community School District’s leaders said at a board meeting on Wednesday that they received hundreds of emails over whether to implement a mask mandate in their schools.

Amber Gale, of Keystone, has a 6-year-old son who lives with Down syndrome and hypoplastic heart syndrome. Gale’s 12-year-old daughter said she’s concerned that, without a mask mandate, she could be more likely to bring the virus home and spread it to him.

“[I asked her] do you want to go to school or not? And, heartbreakingly, her feedback was that she would like to be in schools but she doesn’t know if she could handle it if she knew her brother got sick,” Gale said.

Even with Gale’s point of view, the board voted unanimously to essentially keep the status quo and not mandate masks in class. The district is watching for COVID-19 cases as, over the past three weeks, district superintendent Pam Ewell said 17 students tested positive for the virus.

Some parents at the meeting on Wednesday had different views than Gale’s.

“If you’re gonna mandate it, I think you gotta shut down everything. Band, you know, everything, it’s all, I mean, there’s the transmission,” one parent offered.

Ewell acknowledged the current situation and also having to balance what district leaders are trying to accomplish with what parents and others want.

“We work very hard to make sure all of our kids are doing their best and are safe and as healthy as they can be. I know it’s not perfect and I know we won’t please everyone,” Ewell said.

Clear Creek-Amana took a similar approach at last night’s board meeting to not require wearing masks in school. Like that district, Benton Community board members have also expressed an interest in waiting until the judge lifts the temporary order and gives a final decision.

For now, staff and students have the option to wear a mask.

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