BCLUW will recommend but not require face coverings for students, staff

Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

CONRAD- The BCLUW school board spent most of its regular meeting on Monday night discussing the hot topic of the moment for districts across Iowa: whether or not face coverings and/or masks should be required for students and staff once classes resume in August.

In keeping with the executive order that Governor Kim Reynolds recently issued, the board voted unanimously to move toward in-person learning, and a survey of BCLUW parents found that 50 percent preferred the in-person option (10 percent preferred distance learning, and 18 percent preferred a hybrid method).


The parent survey also indicated that 63 percent of parents who responded supported requiring face coverings in some or all situations for students on staff, while 33 percent opposed them. Superintendent Ben Petty, Middle School Principal Dirk Borgman and Elementary Principal Mitch Parker all spoke in favor of such a mandate, as Borgman argued that social distancing in a classroom would be next to impossible.


“I don’t like wearing them, but I’m willing to do it if it helps us,” Parker said. “The reality is that if we want to be at school, these are the things that we have to do to make it happen.”


Petty indicated that school nurse Gayle Barkema also supported it and told the board that he spoke for “the 63 percent.”


“The face covering thing has been politicized to a ridiculous level in my mind,” Petty said. “Our best bet is to take as many health and safety measures that are reasonable that we can do.”


Six of the seven board members present, however, indicated that they did not feel comfortable enacting or enforcing a requirement. Board member Brian Feldpausch argued that students would spread more germs with a mask and instead proposed face shields as a better option. Feldpausch went on to note that individuals with high temperatures are most likely to spread COVID-19 and wondered how aggressively district leaders would pursue taking temperatures.


“If we’re going to do masks, we should do temperatures too because that’s how we’re going to catch this thing,” Feldpausch said.


Board president Eric Engle asked Petty if and how students who refused to wear face coverings would be punished, and the Superintendent responded that it would likely begin with warnings before progressing to suspensions for repeated insubordination. Engle also worried that it would add an extra layer of responsibility for teachers in ensuring enforcement.


Feldpausch and fellow board member LJ Kopsa also indicated that despite the results of the parent survey, they had heard from several families who strongly opposed a mask or face shield requirement.


“I’m not heartless, and I don’t think they don’t work. But I’m speaking for the people who don’t want them to be required,” Kopsa said. “That opinion’s out there, and it’s been brought to me.”


Ultimately, Adam Probasco was the only board member to speak in favor of a mask or face shield requirement and was the lone dissenting vote on a motion to “highly recommend but not require” face coverings for students and staff. The district will purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for every student and staff member and provide it to anyone who wants it when classes resume.


During his comments at the end of the meeting, Petty acknowledged the contentious nature of the mask debate and urged everyone in the district to be understanding as the 2020-2021 school year commences.


“Be as kind as you can to staff and students. We’re probably in for the most challenging year we’ve ever had,” he said.



·      Approved the purchase of classroom air purifiers.

·      Approved the free and reduced lunch resolution.

·      Approved the depositories for the 2020-2021 school year.

·      Reappointed Paula Benson as the board secretary and treasurer.

·      Approved raising substitute teacher pay from $100 to $110 a day.

·      Approved the hiring of Julie Fridlinger as a high school teacher, junior class sponsor and yearbook advisor, Rachelle Sieverding as a middle school special education aide, Deb Thompson as a middle school special education aide and Ashley Wilson as the football cheer coach.


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