Grafton parents rally for choice whether to wear masks; school board calls special meeting

GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Grafton School Board modified its mask policy during an emergency meeting on Monday, Aug. 30.

At the elementary schools, all students, staff and visitors must wear masks indoors on the first day of school.

The Board approved a 14-day face covering mandate as noted under the 10 percent checkpoint detailed in the 2021-22 School Year Plan, according to a letter Superintendent Jeff Nelson sent to families.

In the letter, Nelson said the 14-day period will end September 7, with masks also required on Sept. 2 and 3. At the end of the 14 day period, the guidelines for the 5/10/20% thresholds in the plan will be implemented. Masks are optional in the middle and high schools.

Ahead of an emergency school board meeting, Grafton parents rallied outside the Grafton School District Office.

"The purpose of this rally tonight is that we want the school board to hear what we have to say and to know that there is another side to this," said Heather Brahm, whose daughter is in first grade.

Recent debates nationally and locally are centering around whether children should mask up in schools. Doctors say yes, but some parents believe they should get the choice.

"(I) definitely support the parents having the choice as to whether or not we want to put masks on our children. I think the decision should really lie in the parents and not from the administration," Brahm said.

In July, the Grafton School Board made masks optional but had modified that policy at a meeting last week. On Aug. 26, Board President Paul Lorge sent a letter to families saying that following last week's meeting some people "were either confused or unaware of the Board’s discussion surrounding face coverings because the Agenda did not specifically state that face coverings would be considered even though that is a part of the 2021-22 School Year Plan."

Lorge called an emergency meeting, saying the board "firmly believes in transparency" and allowing the public to give input on agenda items.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows almost every school district in southeastern Wisconsin is within an area that has high COVID-19 transmission.

"Between medical professionals, there's a complete consensus on what to do around masking right now. It is that those kids K-12 are masked when they go back to school this fall," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.

Pothof said masking in schools is important as the Delta variant spreads through the community, COVID-19 cases are increasing in children and children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated.

"In parts of the country where they have gone back to school without masks, it has caused problems. They've had outbreaks. They have a hard time keeping class in session. Everyone's quarantined. People are getting sick," Pothof said.

The emergency board meeting was livestreamed at 6 p.m. Monday night.

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