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Masks optional for MPS students heading to school starting today

Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 13:53:36-04

MILWAUKEE — Face masks will be optional when students and staff return to Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) on Tuesday.

Steve Hawthorne has three kids in the district.

"Two of them are very excited to leave their mask at home. My oldest daughter says that she's going to wear a mask for a little while longer because that makes her feel more comfortable," Hawthorne said.

Masks optional for MPS students heading to school today

He believes MPS has done its due diligence monitoring data and keeping the option of pivoting.

For Nikki Brown and her best friend Makenya Jefferson, the change is coming too soon as COVID cases tick back up.

Jefferson said one of her kids who attends MPS has sickle cell. She pleaded for students and adults to keep wearing a face mask even though it's optional.

"I'm a parent that has a sick child and some people don't have the vaccination and that's dangerous," Jefferson said.

Angela Harris is chairwoman of the Black Educators Caucus. She said teachers have different opinions on the move.

"Just because masks are optional, doesn't mean that you don't have to wear them. But, if you want to be mask free, now you have the opportunity to do that as well but just do what's best for you," Harris said.

The transition to making masks optional comes as COVID cases are rising.

"Looking statewide, we've seen a doubling over the last three weeks," Dr. Ben Weston said about the positivity percentage.

As of last Thursday, the entire state remains in the low category when it comes to community levels of COVID-19. Dr. Weston expects case numbers to grow given the positivity rate. He advises being cautious and that people consider two things.

"Risk tolerance is one and the other is as we've always talked about keeping or thinking about layers of protection," Dr. Weston said. He pointed to mitigation measures like vaccination status, distancing, and ventilation.

MPS administration can reinstate mask requirements if COVID cases surge again. Any decision requires input from several entities including the health department and the teachers union.

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