April 14, 2021
Dear Friends of Oskaloosa Schools;
I want to thank all our staff, parents, and students for your flexibility and compassion this school year. It certainly has not been easy, but I have been very pleased with what we have been able to accomplish this year as we’ve worked to provide learning and maintain as many events as possible for our students.
Unlike last year at this time, we are in school face to face, spring activities are taking place, music events have continued, and we are planning for prom and high school graduation in the coming weeks. We feel very fortunate that our students have been able to have these experiences.
The purpose of my message today is to let you know the district’s stance on the mask requirement. I know this has been a topic of conversation among some staff, parents, and students recently. It’s important for me to explain the why behind our decision.
The top priority for myself, as the Superintendent, along with the members of the School Board, is to keep students in school safely. Like many of you, we would love to be able to lift the mask requirement, as well as some of the other changes as a result of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there are a few things preventing us from doing so.
In Iowa, you can prevent being quarantined IF, when you were exposed to COVID-19, you are wearing a mask appropriately. If we were to lift the mask mandate now, we risk having many students being placed into a 10 day quarantine and missing school.
In addition, we must understand our role in protecting the health of our community. Last week was the first time all adults have had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Prior to that, adults had to be within one of the prioritized groups to get vaccinated. As we move forward, we will see many of our parents and community members gain access to the vaccine. Lifting the mask mandate prematurely could endanger people in the community just as they are starting the vaccination process.
We closely monitor COVID data in the school and community and have specifically monitored active infections over the past several months. Leading into Spring Break, the district hit zero active infections. That number has grown to 4 over the past two weeks with 19 people currently in quarantine. While I do not anticipate seeing the surge we experienced in the fall, we do know that cases are gradually increasing among young people.
We hear your frustrations and acknowledge them. We are simply not at a point at which we can lift our mask requirement completely. In fact, as of today, only one school in our conference has loosened their mask requirement for certain situations. A majority are taking the same approach we are. You will see students being allowed to take more mask breaks during the day as the requirement of 6 feet of physical distancing has been reduced to 3 feet of physical distancing.
Once again, I want to thank you for helping us achieve our goals this year. Together, we have created and maintained a healthy and safe environment that provides as much normalcy as possible. We could not have had this amount of success without you. Let’s keep up the great work!
With Osky Pride:
Paula J. Wright
Oskaloosa Community School District