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Wisconsin officials 'strongly recommending' required mask wearing in schools

Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 18:54:30-04

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is now strongly recommending school districts use updated COVID-19 recommendations, including required mask wearing and promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, for the upcoming school year.

DPI’s updated guidelines urge districts to require masks for all children and adults while indoors, as well as use layered mitigation and prevention measures. DPI defines those measures as "promoting COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students, teachers, and staff; promoting correct mask use; encouraging physical distancing and cohorting; screening testing of students and staff experiencing symptoms; and enhanced cleaning and disinfection." The DPI is also urging face masks on school buses and at least 3 feet of distance between students in classrooms combined with face masks.

The new guidelines issued by DPI were created in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s K-12 school guidance, DPI says.

Click here to view DPI's entire recommendations.

“We want schools open for in-person instruction. And we want to keep kids, educators, and families safe. The joint guidance we are strongly recommending districts follow provides a roadmap for a safe return to in-person school," State Superintendent Jill Underly said in a statement Monday.

The recommendations come amid a summer surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, propelled by the more contagious delta variant of the virus. On Sunday, the DHS reported the highest weekly average number of confirmed cases since Feb. 4, 2021.

School board meetings regarding mask wearing

On Monday, a number of area school districts are meeting to decide whether they should roll back to stricter COVID-19 protocols used during the previous school year. You can stay up to date with those updates by clicking here.

At least four local school boards will discuss their return this fall and the role masks will play.

"If it means they can actually be in school, I think it's a great thing. It's a sacrifice we're willing to make," said parent Beatrice Sheridan when asked about masks in school.

"Kids need to be back in school and they should also be equipped with masks. This delta variant this stuff is serious," said Calvin Wright Jr., a father of three school-aged kids.

Mother Patricia Ingrilli said masking up in school should be up to parents, since kids have different needs.

"My middle son has speech issues, so last year with having to wear a mask the entire time made it very difficult for him to be able to talk to his teacher, and for his teachers to be able to understand him. I think it hurt his learning," Ingrilli said.

In the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, the administration has recommended starting the school year requiring universal mask-wearing, while noting the many opinions surrounding masks even among some experts. The requirement would be reviewed monthly.

According to the latest data from Milwaukee County, there are 301 cases among kids under the age of 18 in the most recent 7-day period (7/28-8/3), which is a nearly 14-fold increase from four weeks earlier.

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Coronavirus in Wisconsin

More data on Wisconsin's vaccination progress here.

Find a vaccination site here.

Check out county-by-county coronavirus case numbers here.

More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

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