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Johnston schools no longer requiring face masks in school buildings

The school board voted 4-3 Tuesday night in favor of lifting the mask mandate that had been reinstated in September.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — Facial coverings in one central Iowa school district are no longer required following a special board meeting Tuesday night. 

The Johnston Board of Education voted 4-3 on the issue. Starting Tuesday, face masks are no longer required to be worn in Johnston schools, excluding school buses. 

The board had reinstated its mask mandate on Sept. 23 after a federal judge ordered the state of Iowa to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents schools from requiring masks on Sept. 13. 

Parents didn't hold back their feelings about the decision. Parent Michell Veach told Local 5's Laryssa Leone that the mask mandate was hindering children's ability to feel comfortable in school. 

"We believe that children are healthiest when they're able to breathe freely, when they can see their friends' expressions and when they can bond with their peers," Veach said. 

Anne Smith, a mom of three, said she believes masking is a no-brainer and disagreed with the board's decision. 

"My kids will continue to mask. Again, they've never complained in the two years we've been doing this," Smith said. 

Smith also said she wasn't surprised by the board's decision. 

"I had already heard from several of the board members. It's been clear," Smith said. "And this doesn't surprise me that they've already had their minds made up before tonight. We knew that going in." 

The debate isn't just between community members, however. 

During the last school board meeting about masks, three members of the board voted against the mask mandate for several reasons: community spread wasn't happening in Johnston schools, the federal judge's ruling could be reversed, and many children might soon become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. 

Masks are no longer required to be worn in Johnston schools except on buses, effective immediately. The Johnston Board...

Posted by Johnston Community School District on Monday, November 29, 2021

Now, kids older than 5 years can get the Pfizer vaccine. However, the Iowa Department of Public Health reports a 10.8% positivity rate for the entire state. That is data as of Sunday, Nov. 28. 

County-level data as of Wednesday, Nov. 24 says Polk County has an 11% positivity rate. Kids between 0-17 years old accounted for 23% of positive tests for the seven-day period prior. 

Local 5 will update this story as more information becomes available. Download the We Are Iowa app or subscribe to Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter for the latest.  

RELATED: 'Really exciting': Altoona 7-year-old halfway back to in-person learning after receiving first vaccine dose

RELATED: Federal judge's ruling halts vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states, including Iowa

WATCH | Iowa reports 49 more COVID hospitalizations: Nov. 29, 2021 update 

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