New Berlin school district votes to make masks optional for students

NOW: New Berlin school district votes to make masks optional for students

NEW BERLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- New Berlin is joining a growing list of Milwaukee-area school districts giving students a choice about whether or not to wear a mask.

It was an exciting night for parents pressing for change. The motion for mask-choice passed 4-3 Tuesday night, May 18, after passionate debate and countless interruptions by parents.

Parents filled the in-person meeting at Eisenhower High School after other districts like Whitefish Bay, Waukesha and Elmbrook moved to mask-choice. 

"People like to peg us as anti-maskers, but I'm not anti anything, I'm pro-freedom, so we need to choose what's best for us and for our bodies," said parent Angela Spielman. 

New Berlin allowed for a half hour of public comment, with nearly all offering up opinions why masks have hurt, not helped, their children.

"My grandkids are very young and they are horrible at their masks, playing with them and getting them all dirty. So I don't really see the point in that, so we are very happy tonight," said parent Angel Elam. 

“We do need to have it be a choice with all of the information that we have at this point,” said Dena Graesing, parent.

On the other side, questions -- when there are only 17 days left in the school year, why change things now?

"A lot of parents like me only sent their kids back to school because there were these mitigations in place -- only because -- and now we have no time to react to it," said parent Ann Szeflinski.

The board was mixed, one saying the special meeting, called in just 24 hours, gave insufficient time to prepare.

“Honestly, I’d like to be able to consider what everybody wrote on these emails. Calling this board meeting this quickly with a 24-hour notice is not good policy. I will also say we need to do a risk benefit analysis. What do we get for peeling the restrictions back now?,” said Krislyn Holaday-Wondrachek, board member. 

Board President Schulz said "freedom" in response, and the audience of pro-mask-choice parents cheered.

The wording of the motion was that masks are recommended for non-vaccinated individuals, but not required. 

That goes into effect starting Friday, May 21.

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