Kenosha school board votes in favor of mandating masks in district schools

NOW: Kenosha school board votes in favor of mandating masks in district schools

Updated: 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2021

KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- In a surprise turn of events late Thursday night, Aug. 26, the Kenosha Unified School Board voted, 5-2, in favor of mandating masks for students in every grade, as well as for staff and visitors at all district buildings

A rowdy school board meeting Tuesday led to the entire board walking out.

Thursday night's school board meeting was held a different way - virtual-only.

The meeting got underway at 7:00 p.m. with public comments starting ten minutes in.

60 people had signed up to speak in the forum.

Mid-way through, the board voted to extend public comment beyond what was supposed to end within 45 minutes.

The meeting generated a lot of interest from the public with more than a thousand people tuning in to the livestream, some critical of doing it this way.

"This doesn't really constitute a public meeting the way this is being held," said Eric Meadows, an area parent.

Tuesday's meeting was called off because a packed room didn't allow for social distancing.

"Those folks who had thoughts were silenced. Maybe it’s a little easier to you to act contrary to our interest when you don't have to face us, we're against the masks," Said Kevin Matthewson, a local parent.

Parents told board members they proved in June that they can make decisions contrary to the county health department by going with optional masking.

"These precious students deserve to breath and have a choice," said Laura, an area parent.

It is real parents that are sick of the tyranny of masking our children," said Victoria Cummings, a local parent.

While only a handful of parents at the in-person meeting favored mandatory masking, a majority of those speaking in the first hour of this virtual meeting expressed their support for mandatory masks.

""I was really disheartened at the parents at the meeting. Please make masks mandatory in all the schools, thank you," said Courtney McNelta, a local parent.

"We are still in a pandemic. One of my kids is not able to be vaccinated. The best chance we have to keep kids in school this year is to follow the guidelines," said Amy Durigan, a local parent.

There had been some controversy about whether the district would allow older children to be mask-optional and younger children who don’t have the opportunity to get vaccinated would have to wear masks, but parents said that wouldn’t work for their 6th graders who are in the same building as 7th and 8th grades that would’ve been mask-optional.

With this decision, everyone from kindergarten through 12th grade will be required to wear masks

Published: 4:29 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2021

KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Kenosha Unified School District is set to consider a plan that would require mask use for some grades as the academic year approaches.

The plan under consideration would strongly recommend but not require mask use for grades 7 to 12. For kindergarten to grade 6, masks would be required under the plan.

The plan comes under consideration during a meeting that had to be rescheduled because of disruptions before the originally scheduled meeting started on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Some parents in favor of optional masking said they were disappointed in the board's actions Tuesday night but hope the district officials listen to them during the rescheduled meeting.

"Listen to parents, listen to the people who elected you," Jacqueline Niccolai said.

Niccolai's children were enrolled in KUSD schools but she pulled them out during the pandemic and wants to bring them back into the district. She said optional mask use would help in making that decision.

"There's no such thing as an anti-masker, there's just people that just want choice," Niccolai told CBS 58. "If you want to wear the mask, wear the mask. Nobody cares if you want to wear a mask, but you can't force families to wear them, you can't force children."

Other parents are in favor of requiring masks.

Lisa Guerrero has a special needs student at home and said required masks would allow him to return to the class to learn in-person instead of staying at home for the virtual schooling option.

"I have two choices, one is to let my child fail in this unstructured, unsupported environment of e-learning," Guerrero said. "Or send him to school and take the chance at him catching something."

The issue has divided the community and led to some conflict online.

Kenosha Education Association president Tanya Kitts Lewinski said she's been a target by some parents in favor of optional mask policies.

"Threats, harassment, pictures of my daughter have been posted on social media," Lewinski said. "It's gone beyond any sort of just basic disagreement."

Lewinski said she hears the concerns of some parents but wants to put the health of the community first.

"I understand that people are concerned about their individual liberties, but we also have a responsibility to care for and protect each other," Lewinski said.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26. It can be streamed live HERE

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