News 9.14.21: SCCSD Mask Meeting Update, Teachers' Union Position, Marriage Resolution Update & More

Sep 14, 2021

Image from the website for the Iowa State Education Association. The state teacher's union is not taking an official stance on mask mandates in schools.
Credit https://isea.org

Just hours after a federal judge blocked Iowa’s law banning mask mandates, the Sioux City Community School Board agreed vote on the issue. It will take place tomorrow at 3 p.m., instead of noon.

Board vice-president Monique Scarlett put forth the motion, saying the mask mandate could help stop the spread of the very contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

School Superintendent Paul Gausman agreed that it was time to bring back face coverings, but some students and staff are likely to be exempt for health reasons.

The Sioux City Education Association that represents teachers in the district sent an email to board members. It says in part, the local union (SCEA) is not taking a group stance on masks. The local union president Lesa Banks who sent the email tells Siouxland Public Media says she is glad the school board has local control. But, since the meeting was called quickly, the union hasn’t had time met with members. Banks has heard from some who want masks and some who do not. However, teachers who are vaccinated are wearing their masks as protection for those with a weak immune systems.

The state teachers' union says in a statement it hopes school leaders will focus on science as they decide what to do next. 

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Public School District took quick action by reinstating masks starting tomorrow. Other larger districts have done the same, including Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

The uptick in Iowa’s COVID-19 cases gained steam over the weekend, the New York Times reported. 

Iowa’s daily average of new cases was up 27% over the two weeks that ended Sunday, the Times reported. The comparable two-week figure reported Friday was 23%. 

However, the gain in hospitalizations slowed a bit according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch. As of Sunday, hospitalizations were up 3% in two weeks. Friday’s figure was 3.8%. Woodbury County saw a 60% jump from September 1st to 8th in patients being treated for COVID-19 only, with 17 hospitalizations reported last Wednesday by Siouxland Public Health that puts out weekly reports. Twenty-eight were COVID-19 positive.

Credit Siouxland District Health Department

The Washington Post reported Iowa’s cases rose 8% in the past week. The state ranked 27th in per-capita average new daily cases of COVID-19.

Hospitalizations rose 1.6% in the past week. 

The state’s test positivity rate was 12.2%. The number of tests fell sharply, 32.1%, from the previous week, the Post’s database showed.

As of Monday, 52.6% of Iowans were fully vaccinated for COVID. The rate in Woodbury County was 43.4% last Wednesday.

The Sioux City City Council yesterday repealed a resolution that defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

The Inclusive Sioux City Advisory Committee had asked the council to repeal the anti LGBTQ+ measure. 

Semehar Ghebrekidan is Sioux City’s Community Inclusion Liason. She was happy the resoluation passed with no opposition.  

Sioux City’s Community Inclusion Liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan
Credit Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

“It also sets a precedent this is a changed council that is moving forward for the betterment of all citizens including marginalized populations.”

Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott
Credit City of Sioux City

The council voted for 4-0 to repeal the resolution, with Mayor Bob Scott abstaining. After the meeting, Siouxland Public Media reached out to Mayor Scott to ask why he abstained from voting. He said “When the council approved it is was political statement and rescinding is a political statement and I don't do political statements. Neither action should have been necessary.”

The Iowa Supreme Court announced today that it’ll allow state lawmakers to proceed with voting on new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. And Governor Kim Reynolds has scheduled a special legislative session to begin October fifth. 

Tomorrow is the deadline set by the Iowa Constitution for the governor to enact new maps that reflect population shifts in the state. But the release of Census data was delayed during the pandemic, making it impossible for the state to meet that deadline. Missing the deadline sent redistricting powers to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Susan Christensen signed an order that gives lawmakers and the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency permission to carry out the typical redistricting process by December first.

The LSA plans to release a first set of maps on Thursday. Three public hearings about the maps are scheduled for next week. The legislature now plans to start meeting October fifth to either approve or reject the first set of maps.

South Dakota lawmakers have rejected a handful of rules proposals governing medical marijuana from Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration but approved the bulk of the program. The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, which is responsible for approving administration rules, effectively told the Department of Health to try again on a number of controversial rule proposals. The law allowing medical marijuana, passed by 70% of voters last year, has seen a halting acceptance from officials trying to balance a clear mandate from voters while placing restrictions on medical marijuana.

The state of Iowa announced almost $100 million in grants to improve broadband in the state. Most of the money in the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program goes to other parts of the state. The West Iowa Telephone Company in rural Plymouth County picked up just over $40,000.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Governor Reynolds announces broadband grant recipients of $100M investment


DES MOINES –  Today, Governor Reynolds and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) are proud to announce the recipients of the State of Iowa Broadband Grants Program.  

Thirty-nine applicants have been awarded a total of $97,500,000 for broadband infrastructure as part of the latest Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program. OCIO received 178 applications from broadband providers for the Grant Program with requests nearing $300 million. Award announcements can be found online here.  

“Expanding broadband across our state continues to be a top priority,” said Gov. Reynolds. “It is clear by the shear volume and scope of applications that the need is there. Today’s award announcement will go a long way toward meeting that need, and we won’t stop here.” 

Due to the overwhelming amount of interest and success of this program, the State of Iowa will expedite a new grant opportunity utilizing ARPA federal funds to build upon the $100 million in state funding for this grant program. Details on this new grant opportunity will be released in the near future.