West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board votes to end mask mandate

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A packed crowd voiced their concerns at the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board meeting Monday night, Feb. 21. All commenters in favor, in one way or another, of moving towards ending the district's mask mandate.

They got what they wanted. 

It passed 6-2, with School Board President Noah Leigh and Brendan Burns voting in opposition.

Almost 100 people filled the room during public comment at the school board meeting Monday night and managed to sway the board towards mask mandate removal. 

More than a dozen protesters held signs with a similar message, calling to end mask mandates sooner. 

"The president of the school board said that he was looking to first get rid of the quarantine mitigations, and then down the line, after that, to remove the masks," said West Allis parent Devon Ray. "But they're pretty much setting us up for failure because the only aspect they're looking at is positivity rates."

Inside, during public comment, some got emotional.

"I'm asking you tonight to think about their wellbeing -- mentally, emotionally, and physically," said one public commenter tearfully.

Others say they took their kids out of school entirely and won't be putting them back in until the mask mandate ends. 

"As of last Thursday, we have pulled our kids from school and will not be returning them until it is made optional," said another via Zoom.

The comments stoked conversation among board members, with Bill Ustruck moving to remove the mask mandate right away but keep quarantine protocols in place. 

"I would be willing to go back to masks for two weeks, to see if we can get it under control, or three weeks, whatever that number looks like, but I would like to go to optional masks immediately," said Ustruck, West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board member.

Board members began to shift, raising the rate from the original proposed 1.5-percent positivity rate to 3-percent positivity rate to reinstate quarantine protocols for exposed students with no symptoms, and removing the mask mandate right away.

"I just want to say thank you," said Ray. "Thank you to the school district for listening to us, thank you to the school district for listening to us. We wanted to be heard and you finally heard us."

These changes go into effect Tuesday morning, Feb. 22.

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