School board passes 5-0 vote to stay voluntary masking
November 17, 2021
The Cashton School District was one of a handful in the area that made it through last school year with limited interruptions to in class learning. Masks were required the entire year.
Last week, however, with some area schools, like Wonewoc-Center and Weston, moving to virtual classrooms due to spikes in positive tests, shrinking staff and quarantines, and the Cashton School district facing similar statistics, school officials began the process of asking some difficult questions.
This year, the district implemented a “masks optional” approach, leaving it up to the students and parents to decide whether to wear them or not. But with COVID cases increasing, the district put forward a proposal that would call for a “temporary masks required” policy (that would expire on Nov. 30) and apply to the elementary school, where 11 students have recently tested positive and a total of 60 are on quarantine. Seventeen of those are awaiting test results. Friday, the absentee rate at Cashton elementary school reached 26%.
To solicit feedback from the community and parents, two formats were created. The first, a survey that was sent out to all registered parents or guardians of elementary school students and school district employees and, second, the board hosted a special school board meeting on Sunday, Nov. 14, where public comments could be given on the proposition.
Sunday’s meeting was well-attended, though official turnout was not counted. Several did sign up to speak, a requirement set by the rules of the board and school district. While the meeting ran fairly efficiently School Board President, Dave Amundson, on a few occasions, found it necessary to remind members that outbursts from the audience not called to speak, or who had not signed up to speak, would not be tolerated.
Of those who turned out for the special meeting, it seemed a majority were there to urge the board to keep the “optional mask” rule in place. However, there were some who spoke hoping to move to a short-term mask policy.
One young mother made a plea to the board not to change the current policy, pointing out that her child is immune compromised and could not wear a mask. She had concerns over what would happen in her case. Others simply stepped forward to ask the board to keep the current policy.
Still others, on both sides, offered a rehash of information that was not new, and has been argued time and time again… Schools without mask requirements have four-times higher COVID rates; Masks cause bacteria born disease; Masks don’t work; How many kids have died?; It’s not killing that many children; There is more science that proves masks work than that they don’t; Vitamins and natural supplements are effective; Allow kids to make the choice; Tests are not reliable…
A small number took advantage of the opportunity to express their views on the current president of the United States or testify that at home experiments were evidence enough to question how effective masks really are.
While there were passionate disagreements at times, one thing everyone at the meeting seemed to agree on was the kids need to be in school.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to stay with a “masks optional” policy.
• Survey results showed that 34 of the 36 elementary school employees who responded felt short-term face covering requirements should be implemented for students through Nov. 30. Of those responses, 32 felt it should also apply to employees.
The parent survey prompted 127 responses. Of those, 79 (62.2%) supported the temporary policy for students, while 48 (37.8%) said no. On the question of teachers wearing face coverings on a short-term basis, a slightly higher number, 81 (63%), felt teachers should be wearing masks.
Sixteen (16) people spoke at Sunday’s meeting. Most, but not all, were not in favor of the short-term mask requirement.