JANESVILLE

The Janesville School District will move away from universal masking to a mask-recommended policy starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday after a unanimous 8-0 vote by the school board. The vote also rescinded the face mask use metric the board approved in October.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, nine people all were for a change to the masking policy.

Heather Miller compared the Janesville school her child attends to a military school because of the mask mandate and the constant reminders to pull up their masks.

A district student said the mask mandate worsened her depression and that staff and teachers could not see her emotions from behind her mask.

Another student called the universal mask policy hypocritical and wondered why he had to wear masks inside during the school day but not when he played a sport.

District Superintendent Steve Pophal told board members the change comes after a tide of new COVID-19 cases is subsiding locally and nationwide.

“The numbers aren’t as low as they were last summer (when masks were made optional), but they are starting to get close,” Pophal said. “As our guests just talked about, we worked without masks and without a problem, we made it through the summer.”

Pophal also said another thing that has changed since last summer is that people age 5 through 18 can be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they or their family so choose.

There are two exceptions to the new face mask rule:

  • Those who test positive for COVID-19 and are then cleared to return to school after a five-day isolation period must wear a face mask when at school for five more days.
  • The second exception applies to public transportation. Federal mandates have not changed, so face masks are still required on public transportation, such as when students are on a bus on the way to school or on their way to after-school events.

One board member, Elizabeth Paull, said she talked to families who were concerned about the time frame of the change. To groans from the crowd, Paull suggested an amendment to set the start time for the new policy at 4 p.m. Wednesday—after school let out for the day. At one point, board president Cathy Myers had to tell attendees to be quiet.

It was later clarified that the original motion’s effective start time and date would be 4 p.m. Wednesday, so Paull’s amendment wasn’t necessary.

Board member Greg Ardrey was not present for the vote.

The Janesville School Board’s decision came a week after the Milton School Board similarly changed its mask-wearing policy.

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