'Mixed emotions': Fort Atkinson schools implement mask mandate days after student tests positive for COVID-19 and dies
The decision comes two days after the death of a 13-year-old middle school student whose mother said he died after getting COVID-19.
The death is currently under investigation by the Jefferson County medical examiner's office who said it could take months before the cause of the death is known.
Until Friday, face masks were optional at the school district and parents expressed mixed emotions about the decision as mask requirements continue to be a controversial issue in classrooms.
"I'm not happy with [my son] wearing a face mask," said Rebecca Van Ess, Fort Atkinson parent. "Do I believe my child wearing a mask is going to help any other kid, no, I don't believe that."
Some parents decided to pick their child up from school once they heard the district was enforcing masks.
"I told my child to walk in and if they make her wear a mask and it's not optional then she can come right back, so now I think we are probably going to opt for home school," said Lisa Stone, Fort Atkinson parent.
For others, the mask requirement was a relief especially after hearing the tragic news of the 13-year-old who passed away.
"I feel safer and I think it's the right thing to do," said Daniel Neugert, Fort Atkinson parent. "It's a good stopgap until we can get vaccinations for the younger kids."
Jefferson County Health Department said this week Fort Atkinson school district recorded 25 positive COVID-19 cases, the highest since the state of the school year. Officials praised the mask order after they sent a letter to the district encouraging them to implement more mitigation efforts to prevent the spread at school.
"We are very confident the school districts decision to implement masking for all grades will be incredible useful in control that spread within classroom," said Samroz Jakvani, Epidemiologist and COVID-19 spokesman for Jefferson County Health Department.
Jakvani is also encouraged students to stay home if they are sick and to get tested. He says there's been reports of students not getting tested out of fear they will miss school or a sporting event.
"They may go home and infect someone else, there's absolutely that can have a broader community impact," Jakvani said.