MILWAUKEE — Masks will become optional at all Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) beginning April 18.
The MPS administration made the recommendation. The state’s largest school district explored possible changes to its COVID-19 health and safety protocols at its monthly meeting Thursday night with masks as part of that list.
The board voted Thursday to give the Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley authority to consult with the health department, Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and ASC to use CDC guidelines to enact COVID-19 rules.
The administration is also recommending that if COVID-19 cases go up to the substantial transmission category, masks become mandatory for the district again.
"The new mask policy is a change from the original mandate that required masks be worn in all MPS school buildings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19," MPS said in a statement. "The district does have the option to revert back to a mandatory mask policy if it is determined that there is a significant transmission of the virus within the city of Milwaukee and/or the school district. Masks will continue to be available for students and staff in school buildings."
"These decisions are just not made just out of the sky," Posley said. "We meet on an ongoing basis with the department of health, with the Milwaukee Health Department."
As part of the plan, MPS will continue to offer vaccine clinics. It is expanding its covid-19 testing options. High quality masks will still be made available. They will also monitor clusters of cases.
"When we get close to 3 percent, you know, we are getting close, or if we get to 2 percent, this is a time to huddle, to kind of talk" Posley said. "Do we need to go back to masks in this one particular school to make sure that we are able to control the spread?"
Last month, theCDC updated is guidanceto recommend schools require masking in areas with high transmission.
According to the dashboard, 26 students and staff have tested positive for the virus in the past seven days. Data shows the majority of schools report 0 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days. The school moves to virtual learning if it reaches 3 percent.
"I like the plan that administration is putting forth, to be honest," said MPS board member Henry Leonard ."I think we need to look at it more as a, looking at the conditions and looking at the adjustments we need to make as it goes along."
"I too have received questions about the younger students, the K3, K4, K5," said MPS board member Marva Herndon. "But definitely those that are not old enough to get vaccinated, there's real concerns out there."
A quick survey of parents picking up their students outside Fratney Elementary shows some parents are ok if masks stay or go.
"I'm not opposed to keeping it for general safety, but it would be about time if we could stop wearing them," said Shonda Maddox.
The City of Milwaukee's mask mandate expired March 1, but MPS chose to wait on removing its mask mandate. School officials said they were partnering with local health leaders and looking at case data before they made any moves.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Watch Thursday's MPS board meeting below: