GC schools will return with in-person learning: Final decision on masks, safety requirements still to come

Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

GRUNDY CENTER- As school districts around the country wrestle with how and when to bring students back into classrooms in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grundy Center school board engaged in a lengthy discussion on the matter during last Wednesday night’s regular meeting.


The board came to an agreement that of the three “Return to Learn” scenarios presented—fully in-person learning, fully virtual and a hybrid method—in-person learning was the most preferable option. Superintendent Robert Hughes explained a few of the ways that the school day will look different, from social distancing to more rigorous cleaning to an expanded lunch period without communal spaces.


When the discussion shifted to a potential mask or face-covering requirement, however, opinions among board members differed. Hughes reported that districts will have the power to make masks compulsory, but board president Andy Lebo and fellow board member Al Kiewiet argued against it, opining that the decision should lie with individuals and families.


“I’d like to read the (factual) support that it just shuts this (virus) down. I don’t think we can sit there and tell people that your kid has to show up with a mask on,” Lebo said. “I don’t know how you can make it mandatory.”


Lebo added that he believed the district would “lose people” if it moved toward requiring masks, and Kiewiet cited an opinion from a high-ranking official at the University of Iowa hospitals claiming masks “aren’t nearly safety as what they seem to be.”


“I’m a little disappointed that we weren’t a little more ahead of the game,” Kiewiet said. “We’re going to require stuff out of people and do things, and they’re going to ask us what we did to get ready for it. I just think it’s going to look absolutely horrendous… I’ve heard from the public that it’s too late.”


On the other hand, board members Steven Martens and John Gordon countered that wearing a mask would be an effective way to mitigate the spread of the virus and a bare minimum measure to increase safety for students and staff.


“If you have it optional, it kind of defeats the purpose. If you really want to nip this in the bud and not go back to virtual learning, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. We have to push that as much as possible right now,” Martens said. “My thoughts have changed on this, and it’s because we’re seeing this virus not back off at all… If we don’t do (wear masks), we won’t have sports or anything else.”


Gordon, who referenced the fact that he himself was not wearing a mask during the in-person meeting, nonetheless made the case that requiring them was the right thing to do.


“Common sense tells me I don’t want to do it, but if you’re sneezing and you’re wearing a mask or shield, you’re going to mitigate some of it,” he said. “People don’t want to do it, but they want to go back to school. As much as I hate saying that we need to tell people to wear masks to go back to school, I think we have to.”


Hughes also pushed back against the assertion that the staff hadn’t been prepared for the virus and noted extensive trainings and planning since school was closed in late March.


A motion to implement an in-person “Return to Learn” plan carried unanimously with “protocols to come” for safety and security.



·      Approved first readings of several handbook policy revisions.

·      Approved the hiring of Becki Smith as the nutrition program director, Rebecca Steckelberg as the ag teacher and FFA advisor and Mark Fakler as vocal music teacher.


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