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Despite complaints, Fisher holds firm on school district’s mask mandate

By James Grob,

Charles City Superintendent of Schools Mike Fisher told the Charles City School District Board of Directors on Monday that he will not back down on the district’s mask mandate.

“We don’t love masks, and we can’t wait for the day when we can be rid of them,” Fisher said. “We are honoring the state and county boards of public health, both of which state that these are the rules we have to live by.”

Fisher said that other school districts in Iowa have made decisions that did not abide by the public health recommendations, and “that did not end well” for those schools.

“I’m not a physician, I’m not an epidemiologist, I’m just going by what the Iowa Department of Public Health has stated very clearly,” he said.

Fisher said he has heard frequent complaints questioning this decision, and he sympathizes with those doing the complaining. At Monday’s meeting, Jen Hoeft, whose son, Blake, is an 8th-grader, asked the school board to lift the mask mandate. Hoeft said that her son might have long-term health effects if he continues to wear a mask.

“I’m here to ask you to consider making the mask policy optional, instead of mandatory,” Hoeft said. “My perfectly healthy 13-year-old may be at risk, not only for health issues, but also social and emotional issues, because of this decision.”

Hoeft said that on a normal school day, her son wears a mask nine hours per day and 45 hours per week. She said that she reached out to Floyd County Public Health and asked them if they could provide data as to the long-term health consequences of wearing a mask nine hours a day. She said she was told that they did not have that information.

“Floyd County Public Health and the Charles City Community School District have decided they would make the health decisions for Blake, without knowing what he could face in the future,” Hoeft said.

Over the last two months, Fisher has repeatedly told the public that the school district will keep the mask mandate until it hears otherwise from county health.

Fisher said that the county health department takes its guidance from state public health and the Center for Disease Control, and he’s not going to go against them. The biggest reason for that, right now, are the quarantine rules.

Without masks, Fisher said, far more students and staff members have to be quarantined if they are close to someone who tests positive.

“If someone gets COVID and no one has masks on, everyone who came within a 6-foot radius of that person has to be quarantined,” Fisher said.

Hoeft said that if the possibility of a quarantine was a problem, then the school district should stop putting “healthy students” in quarantine.

“Do you as a school board in the Charles City Community School District know what’s best for Blake’s health?” Hoeft asked. “I am guessing some of you don’t even know who Blake is.”

Fisher said that COVID-19 numbers have remained low, but the district continues to have students that need to be quarantined.

He said the district has not been able to identify one instance of community spread in the classroom, it has always occurred either at an after-school activity or from elsewhere, and implied that the mask mandate could have something to do with that.

Fisher mentioned that he would hate to see students participating in activities the final month of the school year have to lose out because they get quarantined.

“I know it’s frustrating — it’s frustrating for me, too,” Fisher said. “We have an amazing track team this year, we could have 10-15 kids make state. We had a state champion at the Drake Relays. I would just hate for us to get reckless, and lose those opportunities — whether it’s state track, state baseball, softball — everything.”

Fisher repeated that the mask policy will remain in effect until he hears otherwise from health officials.

“Masks are the price we have to pay to have as normal a school year as possible,” Fisher said. “We are trying so hard to give our kids somewhat of a normal year.”

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