KENOSHA — The Kenosha Unified School District Board voted in favor of requiring all students and staff wear masks while indoors during the upcoming semester.
A mask requirement in Kenosha schools has become a hotly debated and divisive topic this week, like in many communities in southeast Wisconsin. The Kenosha School Board was scheduled to meet last Tuesday to discuss a requirement, but board officials decided to end the meeting before it had even started because attendees refused to socially distance in the packed board room.
The meeting was held entirely online Thursday night.
"You knew ahead of time there was going to be a large turnout and yet you were not prepared," one parent said.
"When board members and educators are harassed, bullied, screamed at, doxxed and threatened, it's hurtful and it carries over to our classrooms," said Kenosha Education Association President Tanya Kitts-Lewinski.
Board President Yolanda Adams said 60 people were signed up to speak. For nearly three hours, the board listened to parents, students and members of the community share their opinions on masks and other COVID-19 mitigations.
Some expressed they wanted masks completely optional.
"I am asking you to let us choose for ourselves if we want to wear masks, or else it will ruin the school year," one student said.
Others expressed they wanted masks required.
"I know that the safety of the community comes before reckless attempts to bring back normalcy," one student said.
"We are still in a pandemic and one of my kids is unable to be vaccinated, and she and the other children like her deserve every safety measure recommended by national and local health experts," one parent said.
Kenosha administrators previously recommended students in grades 6 and younger be required to wear a mask until vaccines are available for them. Otherwise, it suggested masks remain optional for students in grades 7 through 12. It recommends circling back on the mask policy as it monitors community case and vaccination rates.
Some expressed they thought the administration's recommendation wasn't safe enough.
"The plan does not go far enough, many of our middle and high school students are vaccinated, but many are not," one parent said. "And there are immunocompromised students and staff at the middle and high school levels. A mask optional policy puts them in danger."
But in a move that surprised some, the board decided to require masks for all students and staff, regardless of their age or vaccination status.
The CDC recommends everyone wear masks in schools regardless of vaccination status.