01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLS

JANESVILLE

As an entire classroom of Janesville elementary school children was sent home Wednesday due to a COVID-19 outbreak, two school district officials were criticized for not wearing masks as they require of all students, teachers and staff.

Soon after the Janesville School Board met Tuesday night, a photo began circulating on social media showing Superintendent Steve Pophal and School Board Vice President Jim Millard seated close to one another at a desk inside the Educational Services Center unmasked.

A photo was taken of them talking, and that photo was referred to by parents at the meeting who oppose the district’s current universal mask mandate.

Board meetings are held at the center, 527 S. Franklin St.

Patrick Gasper, the district’s public information officer, told The Gazette that the meeting between Pophal and Millard occurred in Pophal’s office after they learned that school board President Cathy Myers was unexpectedly unable to attend the meeting. Pophal was prepping Millard to lead the board meeting, Gasper said.

“That photo was a moment in time,” Gasper said.

He said the two men were not flouting the rules or risking infection.

“I know for sure that they are both fully vaccinated and both have received booster shots,” Gasper said. “It’s because of that they felt comfortable not wearing their masks.”

Gasper said allowing the larger student population to go maskless on school campuses isn’t possible “because we don’t know who’s been vaccinated and not vaccinated.”

He took issue with parents claiming, as one did on social media, that the school district is forcing students to wear masks eight hours a day.

“That’s simply not true,” Gasper said, “because they can take their masks off when they’re outside and they get an hourly mask break.”

Washington Elementary class sent home

A class from Washington Elementary School was sent home Wednesday due to a COVID-19 outbreak. This was done on the recommendation of the Rock County Public Health Department, Gasper said.

An unspecified number of students and staff were associated with the one classroom connected to one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“They recommended we close it down for a few days. It is definitely affiliated with a number of positive cases. That’s the limit to what we can say about it,” Gasper said.

He declined to say how many students and staff were infected, how many students or employees were sent home, how long they would be asked to self-isolate, or when the classroom would be open again for instruction.

Cyberattack on district still felt

The school district reported Monday that a cyber attack shut down its computer network and locked students, their families and staff out of programs, including Infinite Campus, Classlink and other web-based resources.

The district was able to restore Wi-Fi internet access in its schools, and officials have said no personal or student data had been accessed or destroyed.

A notice on the school district website Wednesday stated the district was still working “to restore functionality” of some systems while an investigation in to the source of the malware by “digital forensics experts” is ongoing.

“Please note that while this impacts technology and resources, classroom instruction will continue, although it may look more like school of several years ago until the incident is resolved,” the statement said in part.

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