Perry School Board liberates district from face-mask control

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Perry Community School District Superintendent Clark Wicks, center, addresses the PCSD Board of Directors, clockwise from left, Casey Baldwin, President Kyle Baxter, Vice President Linda Andorf and Kenia Alarcon and PCSD Business Manager Kent Bultman, at Tuesday's special meeting. Director Jim Lutmer was absent.


The Perry School Board emancipated the district’s students, faculty and staff members from mandatory face coverings Tuesday when it voted 3 to 1 to revise the May Return to Learn plan by making the wearing of masks “their own decision.”

The action rescinded the board’s October 2020 policy, which required face masks “when social distancing cannot be maintained.” Under the revised plan, face masks are optional in all circumstances, including on school buses, effective immediately.

The board removed from the May Return to Learn plan the previous general recommendations and expectations for face masks and replaced them with a statement that closely follows the current recommendation of the IDPH: “We urge parents and students to make their own decision about mask usage.”

Two provisions were also struck from the Return to Learn plan’s transportation procedures, requiring students and drivers to wear face coverings while traveling on PCSD school buses.

The school board’s action followed upon the revised guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the decision made Tuesday by the Drake University Athletic Department to remove all attendance restrictions at this week’s Iowa state track meet.

PCSD School Board Vice President Linda Andorf, the only current or former teacher on the school board, voted against the revised Return to Learn plan, preferring to retain the October mask mandate at least through the end of the school year on May 28 and possibly through the summer term, which starts June 2.

“We’ve got eight days of regular school time left,” Andorf said. “My honest feeling is that we continue on with what we are doing until we look at the end of summer school and look at the beginning of next year.”

PCSD School Board President Kyle Baxter said his constituents began urging him last Friday to convene a special meeting of the school board in order to strike through the mask policy.

“People are ready to make their own decisions,” Baxter said. “Especially with the quarantine process gone, I strongly feel it’s across the board your choice if you do it or not. If somebody feels that that’s what’s going to protect them, then that’s what they can do. If somebody else feels that this thing ain’t going to do anything for me, we’re not still forcing our control over them. We’re allowing them to make that choice.”

Director Casey Baldwin urged the board to follow IDPH guidance consistently and to present a united front to the public.

“I will be honest,” Baldwin said. “I want to walk out of here today with all four of us aligned. Because we have to instill confidence. I think that’s important.”

Andorf restated her position.

“I think we need to keep with what we have until the end of the school year,” she said. “That is my personal preference as somebody who does go in and out of the school buildings on a fairly regular basis.”

Director Kenia Alarcon said she had some reservations about students going mask-free on the school buses, but she voted with Baxter and Baldwin to make face masks optional everywhere effective immediately. Director Jim Lutmer was absent from the special meeting.

Districtwide, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has infected 62 students and 19 staff members since classes began Aug. 19, 2020, according to communications from the PCSD. The list of cases follows:

8/24 PES 1
9/15 PHS 1
9/18 PHS 1
9/24 PMS 1
10/4 AEA 1
10/5 PHS 1, PMS 1
10/8 PHS staff 1
10/15 PMS 1
10/29 PHS 3
10/30 PHS 1
10/31 PHS 1
11/2 PHS 1
11/3 PES 1
11/4 PHS 1
11/11 PHS 1, PMS 1, PMS staff 1, PES 1
12/3 PHS 1, PHS staff 1
12/4 PHS 1
12/7 PHS staff 1
12/11 PMS 1
12/14 PHS 2, PMS 1
12/16 PHS 2, PHS staff 1
12/17 PHS 2
12/18 PHS 1, PMS 1, PMS staff 2
12/19 PES 4
12/20 PES 1
12/21 PHS 1
12/22 PMS 1, PMS staff 1, PES staff 1
1/3 Staff 9
1/5 PES 1
1/6 PHS 1
1/11 PMS 1
1/12 PHS 1, PMS 1
1/21 PHS 1
1/22 PMS 1
1/28 PMS 1
1/29 PHS 1
2/1 PHS 1, PES 2
2/3 PHS 3
2/4 PHS 1, PES 1
2/5 PHS 1, PMS 1
3/10 PHS 1, PMS 1
3/26 PES 1
4/6 PES 1
4/19 PHS 1
4/20 PMS 1
4/26 PHS 1
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Totals:
34 PHS students
15 PMS students
14 PES students
19 staff members

The current population of students and staff in the Perry Community School District numbers about 1,800.

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