Waukee superintendent Dr. Brad Buck sent out two very different emails over the weekend relating to the district’s masking policy for the remainder of the school year.
On Friday night, he sent out a message to families in the district.
Buck cited guidance issued by the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health late last week.
“As a result, beginning on Monday, Waukee CSD will be following the revised guidance from IDPH,” Buck wrote. “Masks will be optional for students and staff and the revised quarantine guidance will be followed.”
Buck acknowledged the timing and said the district understands the news will be experienced by staff and families in a variety of ways.
“For those who choose to and are eligible for vaccination, we encourage you to do so,” he wrote.
That was the message Buck sent on Friday night around 7:30 p.m.
Before 1 p.m. on Saturday he changed his tune. He said during the pandemic, the district likely hasn’t gotten all of its decisions correct.
“Late yesterday afternoon we received guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) which promoted a move to a mask optional environment for schools,” he wrote. “Our intention was to get the decision to families as soon as we could. Over the course of the pandemic, we have generally followed the guidance from these state health leaders and came to a conclusion that we would follow this guidance for the remainder of the year.
“Upon further review, listening to concerns being raised about our most recent and consistent stance on masks (required), the way in which this decision impacts a variety of stakeholders, and other mitigation efforts, we have decided to continue to follow our current Return to Learn plans, requiring masks for the remainder of the school year. We will also continue to follow the quarantine guidelines.”
Buck wrote that Friday’s email and decision were “done too hastily.”
“As a result, we ended up in the wrong spot,” he wrote. “I take responsibility for that.”
Waukee “hopes” to be mask optional in the fall, Buck wrote.
“School districts are in a tough spot,” he said. “We are working to implement public health guidance, that at times is conflicting, guided by our local data, while balancing our service to staff and families, all in a hyper-politicized environment.”
Dr. Nathan Boonstra, a general pediatrician in the Blank Children’s Pediatric Clinic, criticized both IDPH and the Waukee district for its announcements.
“Unreal,” he said of the IDPH guidance. “Just weeks before summer break, IDPH urges schools to drop mask mandates *and* declares that COVID exposed students are *not* required to quarantine regardless of mask usage. A gut punch to getting teen immunization rates up, and an invitation for outbreaks.”
As for Waukee, he said the district “generally has been ahead of the Iowa School COVID safety curve.”
“Now hours after the IDPH release, they drop their mask mandate and quarantine policy effective Monday,” Boonstra wrote. “Parents agreed to in-person learning with the understanding these protections would be in place.”
He tweeted that at Dr. Buck.