Discussion grows over masks in Wisconsin schools amid new CDC guidance

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 8:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Less than a week into vaccinating kids 12 and older, discussion is growing over masks in the classroom. Saturday, the CDC released updated recommendations for schools saying all students should continue to wear masks in school at least until the end of the school year.

For many Wisconsin schools, this will be an ongoing discussion in the months ahead. Right now rules on face coverings vary depending on where you are and many local health departments are deciding what their long term policies will be.

With the end of the school year weeks away, UW Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Doctor Gregory Demuri says there’s no way enough kids will be fully vaccinated to ensure full protection for schools.

“We’ve done a great job in schools, particularly in Wisconsin keeping COVID under control and we don’t wanna mess with a good thing,” said Dr. Demuri.

In Wisconsin Dells, students won’t be unmasking just yet. District Administrator Terry Slack says masks have been very effective for staff and students.

”We’re going to continue with the masks until we get done with school on June 3rd,” said Slack. After the state mask mandate was struck down, Wisconsin Dells is one of many school districts that continued to require them. Slack says COVID case numbers remain low and students have responded well. He also said the district’s mask policy has allowed students to do some things their peer schools can’t do.

NBC15 also reached out to other area school districts about mask policies. Officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District say the current mask policy will remain in place pending more guidance from Dane County Public Health officials. “MMSD has been requiring all students and staff to wear masks at all times.  This would include any outdoor activities during school hours (recess). We are waiting to hear from PHMDC guidelines before considering any possible changes to pandemic safety measures in our schools,” said an MMSD spokesperson.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is in the same boat. “Like most area districts, we are awaiting potentially revised guidance from PHMDC in response to the CDC’s guidance last week,” said a spokesperson. Middleton school officials say it is likely they will continue to require students and staff to wear face coverings in buildings and outdoors when they can’t maintain appropriate physical distancing. “We also encourage our staff to provide regular mask breaks for students, especially now that the weather is better and it’s easier to be outdoors for longer parts of the school day,” said a spokesperson.

Although Rock County dropped its mask mandate last week, Janesville schools announced students will also continue mask wearing for now.

Parents are encouraged to check with their local districts for updated guidance on this in the weeks and months ahead.

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