Prior to the Iowa legislature’s amendment that prohibited schools from mandating masks, the Waukee District flip-flopped on its policy after the Iowa Department of Public Health altered its guidance on masks.
Waukee Superintendent Brad Buck announced that the district would not require masks for the remainder of the school year after the revised guidance. Less than 24 hours later, however, he sent out an email stating that decision was made too quickly and the district would indeed finish the year with a mask requirement.
Waukee parents wondered what happened.
While there were surely other factors involved in the change of mind, it is likely that messages Buck and the school board received from a pair of concerned parents played a role in the about-face.
One of those individuals was Lina Tucker Reinders. Reinders, who has been one of the most vocal critics of medical freedom bills at the Iowa Capitol, wrote to Buck and other school officials that the reversal on the mask policy is against CDC guidance and “purely about dark red Iowa politics.”
“I am gravely disappointed in the board and administrators’ decision,” Reinders wrote. “To knowingly put (unvaccinated children) at risk is irresponsible and breaks the trust parents placed in you this year especially.”
Reinders noted that Waukee “HAD” been a leader in how to bring kids back to school safely.
“Now, with only TWELVE DAYS LEFT you’ve taken the easy road and passed the hard work on to parents – parents who trusted you and the integrity on which the board was elected,” she wrote. “I expect your next letter to be guidance for parents who decide not to send their children back to finish the year in person.”
The subject of the email was “Incredulous.”
And it was signed, “disillusioned.”
Reinders also included in her email that she is a public health consultant. Reinders is the executive director at the Iowa Public Health Association.
Reinders wasn’t alone.
Dr. Nathan Boonstra also lobbied Buck and the school board after the decision to no longer require masks. Boonstra is a general pediatrician at Blank Children’s Hospital and chair of the Iowa Immunizes state immunization coalition.
“I was shocked and frustrated when I read the news that Waukee Community School District would immediately discontinue its mask requirement as well as eliminate quarantining protocols for exposed students,” Boonstra wrote to Buck and the board.
Boonstra said the letter released by the Iowa Department of Public Health “vexingly, includes recommendations that run contrary to the guidelines of CDC.”
In the past, Boonstra wrote, Waukee Schools had “consulted with experts regarding decisions” like this one.
“Sadly, today’s decision was made without the input of any members of that team that I am in contact with, and within only hours of the IDPH press release,” he wrote.
Boonstra told the board masking is “much more effective at source control than as personal protection.”
“This means that choosing to mask does not sufficiently prevent the wearer from contracting COVID,” he said. “Rather, mask policies work when nearly everyone is in compliance so that anyone who has COVID is unlikely to spread the virus even before displaying symptoms.
“Discontinuing the mask mandate, whilst also discontinuing quarantine procedures for the exposed, is an invitation for COVID to circulate in Waukee schools. At this time only a small percentage of Waukee’s student population is old enough to be vaccinated.”
While Boonstra acknowledged just around 300 children in the U.S. have died from COVID, he points to research that indicates COVID causes possible damage to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
“We cannot in good conscience send our nonimmune 12-year-old to an unsafe school environment until he is fully immune,” Boonstra said.
Boonstra urged the board and Buck to reconsider the decision and maintain the masking requirement and quarantine protocols until the end of the school year.
After Buck announced the district would indeed require masks, Reinders wrote another email.
“The best leaders acknowledge error, accept responsibility, learn and set a new, correct path. Thank you for all of this. It took vulnerability and bravery to reverse the decision. Undoubtedly you will get pushback, but you stood on principle and integrity, love for our students and concern for their safety. You did the right thing and your leadership is inspiring.”
Even after Gov. Kim Reynolds took the abuse of power out of the hands of school administrators by signing HF847 into law, Boonstra was still complaining:
“Good morning from Iowa, where parents are waking up to find that in the middle of the night the governor had a party and signed a law making it *illegal* for schools to follow CDC guidelines. Effective today.”
Boonstra also attacked Kimberly and Emily, two Ankeny moms who have been leading the charge against forced masking:
“Families all over Iowa forced to make split-second decisions about their family’s safety because of fringe conspiracy theorists.”