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HF 847 Temporary Restraining Order FAQs

What was the claim made in the federal lawsuit, The Arc of Iowa et al vs. Reynolds et al that is currently in federal court?

In this lawsuit, The ARC of Iowa, a non-profit organization representing the rights of people with disabilities, joined together with a group of parents of children with disabilities to claim that Iowa House File 847 (codified as Iowa Code § 280.31), which prohibits school districts from adopting, implementing, or enforcing a policy that requires its employees, students, or members of the public to wear face coverings, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  This lawsuit was brought against Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Department of Education Director, Ann Lebo, and ten Iowa public school districts.

Among other forms of relief, the plaintiffs (parties who brought the lawsuit) asked the court to issue orders (first, a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction) stopping the State of Iowa from enforcing Iowa Code § 280.31.  

Was Ankeny Community School District involved in the lawsuit?

Yes, the Ankeny Community School District is a defendant in this lawsuit.

The plaintiffs characterize the defendant-school districts, including the Ankeny Community School District, as “indispensable but not adverse parties.” Generally, this means that they recognize that the laws and directives preventing school districts from requiring masks for any student or employee come from the state of Iowa, and not from any individual school district.

What has happened so far in this lawsuit?

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in federal court on September 3, 2021.  On September 10, 2021, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa, Robert Pratt, held a hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order. On September 13, 2021, Judge Pratt issued an order granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order.

Has the judge in this case made any decisions yet?

Yes.  On Monday, September 13, 2021, Judge Robert Pratt issued an order granting the Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order, or a “TRO.”

In this Order, the judge ordered that “Defendants Governor Reynolds, Director Lebo, and the school districts are ENJOINED from enforcing Iowa Code section 280.31 banning local public school districts from utilizing their discretion to mandate masks for students, staff, teachers, and visitors.”  The judge also said that the order would “issue immediately.”

What does this decision mean for the Ankeny Community School District?

This Order means that the Ankeny Community School District has the authority to make a local decision about whether to require masks on district property.

The Order does not tell local districts how they must respond to this decision, but states that, in the court’s opinion, “[I]t is essential that to reduce the transmission of the virus causing COVID-19 in schools, all adults and children, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks when indoors.”

What’s a TRO?

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 gives federal courts the authority to enter Temporary Restraining Orders, or TROs. A federal court can issue a TRO when it determines that “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant [in this case, Plaintiffs] before the adverse party [in this case, Defendants] can be heard in opposition.”

As the order in this case says, “In determining whether to enter a TRO, the Court evaluates four factors: ‘(1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of the balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on other parties litigant; (3) the probability that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public interest.’”

How long will the TRO be in effect?

The Order provides that the “Temporary Restraining Order shall remain in full force and effect until the Court enters an Order on Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction.”  Therefore, the order will remain in effect until a new order is issued on the request for a preliminary injunction.

We do not yet know the date on which an order related to the request for a preliminary injunction will be issued.

If this lawsuit was brought on behalf of students with special health concerns and special education needs, does this judge’s order only apply to students who have IEPs and/or 504s?

No. The judge’s order enjoins (or stops) the state from enforcing Iowa Code 280.31.  It does not say that the defendants are only enjoined from enforcing the law as it relates to students with special health needs.

Additionally, in his order, the judge says that “The data further shows it is important for all students, staff, and teachers to wear masks to reduce the spread, not merely those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and death.”   And, he says that, “[I]t is essential that to reduce the transmission of the virus causing COVID-19 in schools, all adults and children, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks when indoors.”

What happens next? Will this decision be appealed?

Under law, a temporary restraining order (TRO), cannot be appealed.  The next order issued by the judge, a Preliminary Injunction, could be appealed, however.  On the day the TRO was issued, Governor Reynolds issued a statement indicating that she intends to appeal, if needed.  Therefore, we anticipate that, if the Preliminary Injunction is similar to the TRO, it will be appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

What will happen in our district if the Preliminary Injunction is different from the Temporary Restraining Order? What about if the case is appealed to a higher court?

As we always strive to do, the Ankeny Community School District will follow the law.  For now, the TRO is binding on our school district.  If this changes, either because of the Preliminary Injunction and/or because of an appeal, we will work with our legal counsel to determine the appropriate course of action.

This lawsuit mentions the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What is that?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.”  Title II of the ADA applies to school districts and “requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).” You can learn more about the ADA by visiting www.ada.gov.

This lawsuit mentions the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). What is that?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities and ensures those children receive special education and related services to those children.” You can learn more about IDEA by visiting https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/.


General

What governing body will we follow when making decisions around safety measures?
The Ankeny Community School District will follow the guidance of the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department of Education to respond to positive cases of COVID-19 for students and staff.
Will we utilize any other learning models this year such as hybrid or remote learning for the full district? Will the decision-making matrix be used?
We will follow directives from the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health
Will there be any efforts from the district to work with the Governor on making masks a requirement for those buildings with students under the age of 12?
The district is a member of several statewide organizations that facilitate ongoing communication between school districts and lawmakers; those groups will continue to ensure the lived experience in schools is shared with elected officials.
Will lunch be back to usual and can any mitigation be practiced? Can students eat lunch outside?
PreK-5 There will be assigned seats and distancing between classes in the lunchroom. The filtering system for HVAC is still in use in classrooms.
6-12: Lunch will be back to its standard practice. Principals may make adjustments based on what they learned over the past year to make their schedules work better for students.
Will visitors be allowed in the buildings?
PreK-5: During the academic day, visitors and volunteers will not be allowed in PreK-5 buildings if the Level of Community Transmission for Polk County is Substantial or High according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Community transmission numbers will be posted each week on the district and building websites.
What is the plan this year for getting students in and out of the building, especially at the Elementary levels? Will there be traffic personnel to help?
Each school will communicate a pick-up and drop-off plan to families.
Will lockers be available for use? Can students carry backpacks?
Buildings will design protocols for lunch, lockers, and backpacks based on what was learned during the 2020-2021 school year.
Will water fountains be open for use? Are kids going to continue to be encouraged to bring their own water?
Water fountains are operational and buildings have hydration stations for water bottles.
Will students be changing for gym this year?
All students are requested to wear school-approved physical education attire during physical education classes. This includes dark-colored shorts and a gray t-shirt. For your convenience, shorts and shirts with the Ankeny Physical Education logo are sold at local retailers. Students must wear tennis shoes when in the gyms.
Will the free lunch program continue this year?
Breakfast and lunch will be free the entire school year. Charges will still apply for ala carte. Please complete the free and reduced eligibility application if you believe you may qualify, as other free benefits may apply. There will not be curbside pickup meals like last year and this summer. For families choosing the remote option, more information will be coming out about meal pickups for your children soon.
How will you ensure that everyone’s choice of mitigation practices are encouraged and protected?
The district wants to hear from our students and parents and will continue to work to provide an environment that is supportive of the choices families make. Bullying is unacceptable. The district will continue to provide training and support to our school leaders and teachers to recognize and effectively eliminate bullying.
Can the Ankeny School District Annual Notice of Nondiscrimination please include vaccination status to its list of protected classes?
The Notice of Nondiscrimination is based on civil rights law, the district aligns its statement to those recommended by federal and state law makers.
Will schools be implementing strategies for staggered arrivals or dismissals to cut down on hallway crowding?
Cleaning and disinfection practices are outlined in the Return to Learn addendum. Schools will develop daily schedules that meet the academic and safety needs of their students.
Can we see the vaccination rates by age and zip code?
While the district will not be tracking data in this way, the CDC has rolled out several new publicly-available tracking tools that provide similar helpful information. Learn more here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
How will mitigation measures be addressed in comparison between athletics and activities? For example, at times it appeared this past year that some sports received different mitigation measures than some of the fine arts.
Cancelations & mitigation practices were inconsistent at different schools hosting events for both athletics and activities, which made schedules very challenging. Additionally, the guidance by each of the athletic and activity associations varied, and we worked to follow their guidance as well as the guidance of public health authorities. Coaches and directors did a great job of being innovative and creative to create opportunities for kids despite COVID-19 obstacles. Schools will continue to work closely with ACSD administration and IHSAA, IGHSAU, IHSMA and IHSSA to ensure we are able to provide experiences for students. In regards to music specifically, we fully anticipate in-person concerts will resume this school year. If things were to change, we would work closely with IDPH and the IHSMA to ensure any safety measures needed are followed. Although cannot guarantee all events will be streamed, we continue to work to stream as many events as possible throughout the year. One benefit from COVID-19 was our increased ability to stream events and we will continue to explore avenues to offer this service to our families.
Why are meet-the-teacher events only one night for each school, without any mitigation or staggering of guests?
The district’s Master Contract sets parameters around staff work days and hours. Care will be taken to maximize the safety of those who attend meet-the-teacher events, including use of the same mitigation used for school. Attending after school events is up to the discretion of our families. The restriction on visitors when community transmission is substantial or high is to limit the exposure of elementary students as much as possible while students are in school.

Academic

Will there be an online option for those who can’t be vaccinated?
Yes, remote learning will be an option offered to any Ankeny K-5 student through Wednesday, August 18, 2021. This is an update to the previous plan, which only offered it to students with medical concerns. For parents with students in grades 6-12, if you have concerns about your child’s health and wellbeing in the coming school year and would like to discuss ways we can support your child, please contact your building principal. additional information can be found on the site here.
How do you plan to support learning for those students who miss weeks of school due to COVID-19 infection as well as students whose parents choose to have them quarantine when exposed?
Families will work with the building staff to design a plan that works best for the student. This may include periodic synchronous support.
If we elect to homeschool initially, can we enroll in the district when we are comfortable returning? What supports are available from the district for homeschooling families?
Students may enroll at any time. We can provide you the link to our district standards aligned to your child’s grade level.

Health and Safety

What is the current guidance regarding quarantining students?
Per the Iowa Department of Public Health, children who have tested positive for COVID-19 should not come to school until a certain amount of time has passed and they are meeting a defined symptom threshold.  The district adheres to this direction from our public health officials, as it does for other childhood illness, like chicken pox, influenza, and pertussis.​
Will teachers be allowed to break their contract if they have concerns regarding health and safety in the workplace?
Employees with concerns about COVID-19 and/or the district’s Return to Learn plan are always welcome to reach out to Human Resources for further discussion.
Can the school perform temperature screening to provide one safeguard against COVID and other illnesses at the school until vaccine access is available to all ages?
The district is not able to temperate screen all students.
What screening for illness will occur if a student exhibits symptoms?
The district will follow the guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
To what extent will social distancing be implemented?
Students will be distanced to the extent possible while maximizing educational opportunities given the space available in our schools.
Should kids be bringing their own hand sanitizer?
There will be hand sanitizer available throughout District facilities.
What is the current guidance regarding contract tracing?
The Iowa Department of Public Health has adjusted COVID-19 surveillance to follow the influenza model; state case investigation and tracing efforts for COVID-19 now focus on outbreaks and vulnerable populations. Just like with other public health activities, these efforts will be continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed. However, they do recommend that in the event of a positive case, parents should be given information around exposure to COVID-19 in order to make their own informed decisions regarding risk. As such, Ankeny Schools will still notify families if their child(ren) were exposed to COVID-19.

Will I be notified if my child is exposed? How will I be notified when my child has had a known exposure?
Yes, you will receive an email via our mass notification system, Blackboard, if your child has had an exposure to a COVID-19 positive case.

How will we be informed of a COVID-19 outbreak at our child’s school?
The Iowa Department of Public Health issued new guidance on August 6, that states: IDPH continues to ask K-12 schools to report when >10% of students are absent due to illness. When >10% absenteeism is reported, IDPH will contact the Local Public Health (LPH) department in the county where the school administrative offices are located. Public health will contact the school to provide best practices and support tailored to the specific types of illnesses being reported.

What will cleaning efforts entail?
Will there be any physical barriers set up in classrooms?
There will not be physical barriers installed in classrooms.
What will the air filtration efforts look like for the 2021-2022 school year?
Will masks be required on buses?
The Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health have provided information to Iowa school districts that confirms that an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires passengers and drivers to wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems. Therefore, all Ankeny students as well as Durham School Services Drivers and Bus Monitors will wear masks on school buses.
In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak within a school, will classrooms be closed for cleaning as they have been in the past due to rotavirus or influenza? Is this allowed under the state's latest guidance?
We will monitor positive cases in classrooms carefully. We will deep clean classrooms with electrostatic disinfectant in classrooms with positive cases. IDPH continues to ask K-12 schools to report when >10% of students are absent due to illness. When >10% absenteeism is reported, IDPH will contact the Local Public Health (LPH) department in the county where the school administrative offices are located. Public health will contact the school to provide best practices and support tailored to the specific types of illnesses being reported.
Has consideration been given to creating mask-wearing classrooms?
We are not able to separate class sections based on mask preference. We do not have the staff or facility resources to accomplish this.
Why has the school district not made a strong statement encouraging the use of masks?
Under Iowa law, school districts may not require anyone on district property to wear a mask. However, we welcome students, staff, and visitors to wear masks, and a supply of disposable masks will be available on all district property for those who need them.
Will teachers and staff help make sure students who are supposed to be masking are keeping their masks on at school?
While, under Iowa law, school districts may not require anyone on district property to wear a mask, our teachers – who are committed to building student knowledge every day – will answer questions about how to properly wear masks from those students who choose to wear them. District staff will work to create an environment in which mask wearing is welcome, but may not legally require a student to wear a mask. Families who wish for their children to wear masks at school may want to discuss the reasons for this choice with their children. The CDC offers resources for parents to help them make the right choice for their families and to discuss that choice with their children: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/index.html