State health and education officials to release COVID-19 recommendations for school districts this week

NOW: State health and education officials to release COVID-19 recommendations for school districts this week

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Soon school districts will receive updated COVID-19 guidelines from state health officials, as many reevaluate mask policies due to high levels of transmission.

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS) and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are expected to release their recommendations this week, as school districts prepare to open safely this fall.

State Superintendent of Schools Jill Underly tells CBS 58 she anticipates the recommendations to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice released last week that strongly encourages people to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, if the region is experiencing high levels of transmission.

"If it means wearing a mask, getting the vaccination, I think we need to take that under consideration if that means we can have our schools open," said Underly.

The CDC encourages local school districts to make their own COVID-19 protocols. Two of Wisconsin's largest school districts, Madison and Milwaukee, will require everyone to wear a mask for the upcoming school year.

It's a decision that's angering some parents. Last week a group of nearly 40 Wisconsin parent groups signed an open letter rejecting future mask requirements and school shutdowns.

"We've had enough, we're not sending our kids to school with a mask -- it's non-negotiable," said Kelly Brown, parent of a high schooler at Kettle Moraine. "We won't be tolerating lockdowns as well."

Right now, the Kettle Moraine School District doesn't require facemasks, but Brown said they sent the letter to Governor Tony Evers and President Joe Biden as many officials reevaluate COVID-19 policies.

Gov. Evers said during an annual school summit conference he understands educators, parents and kids are worried about what this school year will bring, but he remained committed to "following the science" when making decisions.

"We will continue to follow and trust the science in public health experts every step of the way to keep everyone healthy and safe," said Evers. "DHS and DPI will work together closely to provide consistent guidance."

While K-12 schools plan to adjust their policies, colleges and universities are grappling with COVID-19 recommendations on campus. Many UW campuses are recommending masks for unvaccinated people and others such as UW-Madison will require weekly testing for those who don't get the shot.

UW-Milwaukee last week adjusted to new CDC guidelines, announcing it would require masks in all campus buildings.

The UW System is currently being targeted by Republican State Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) for their efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Nass, who co-chairs the powerful legislative Administrative Rules Committee, will hold a vote Tuesday on a motion that would require UW System officials to get approval first before issuing any COVID-19 regulations such as mask-wearing and testing.

Sen. Nass argues too many organizations are "moving quickly to take advantage of the Delta-variant hysteria to enact excessive Covid-19 mandates," he said in a statement.

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