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Some students in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls School Districts will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes this week.

Officials in both districts have jointly announced an adjustment to their COVID-19 protocols after a federal judge last week ordered the state of Iowa to halt the enforcement of a law that prevents local school boards from ordering masks be worn in the classroom. In a press release, Waterloo School Superintendent Dr. Jane Lindaman and Cedar Falls Superintendent Andy Pattee said the districts worked collaboratively to ensure they follow a similar process while they determine the next steps taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting Monday, students and teachers in pre-kindergarten and elementary schools in both districts will be required to wear face coverings. According to a press release, the policy in both districts is a temporary, one-week mask mandate because no vaccines are available for students in the age group.

In the press release, Lindaman and Pattee said officials in both districts will be working this week to establish a metrics system that will determine the next steps at their elementary buildings. The superintendents plan to release more information by Friday. Also this week, the Waterloo Schools officials will be working to make more vaccine clinics available and the Cedar Falls District leaders plan to continue mitigation strategies in all buildings.

For the middle- and upper-level grades, the mask protocols vary slightly in each district.

In Waterloo, the middle school and high schools buildings will continue to operate with mask-wearing strongly encouraged or students have the option of virtual learning. Education leaders plan to monitor sixth-graders, recognizing that some students at that grade level don't have access to vaccines.

In Cedar Falls, the junior high and high school buildings will also continue operating with mask-wearing strongly encouraged. Students also have the option of virtual learning. District officials plan to continue monitoring cases, tracking and communicating close contacts and communicating bi-weekly case numbers.

"Both school district are designed to mitigate virus spread, ensure in-person instruction can continue, allow for modifications as needed," Dr. Lindaman said.

Pattee added: "We've worked diligently to determine next steps informed by professional guidance, the law and its possible interpretations, and the health and academic needs of our families and staff."

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