Three motions pertaining to COVID-19 protocols in the Milton School District passed at a Milton School Board meeting Monday night.
The first motion to implement new isolation and quarantine protocols, effective Tuesday, passed on a 5-2 vote. In a memo to the school board, Superintendent Rich Dahman spoke on the federal Centers for Disease Controal and Prevention’s updated COVID-19 guidance for isolation that changed the isolation period from 10 to five days. After discussion with the Rock County Public Health Department, the district worked to come up with a motion that incorporates the new recommendation, Dahman’s memo said. Board members Leslie Hubert and Jennifer Johns voted no.
Under the second motion that passed 6-1, the district will continue all other safety protocols that are currently in place, including universal masking at all district facilities and events. Hubert was the lone no vote on that motion.
The third was to adopt new safety protocol metrics as presented to the board at the meeting. This motion was the focus of most discussion during the meeting. Many board members, including Hubert, Johns and Joe Martin, disagreed with one of the three metrics that must be met to review safety protocols regarding COVID-19.
The first metric is active positive COVID-19 cases among school district residents. The data will be reviewed every Thursday, and if the number of active positive COVID-19 cases drops below 125 or 175 for two consecutive weeks, the district will review the protocols in place.
As of Thursday, Jan. 6, there are 206.74 positive cases per 10,000 residents.
The second metric is regarding the active positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff in Milton schools. When or if the number of active positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff drops below 50 or rises above 100 for two consecutive weeks, the district will review its safety protocols.
The last safety protocol metric involves tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates among school-aged residents. When and if COVID-19 vaccination rates meet certain thresholds, the district will review safety protocols that are in place for the whole district.
This metric was one that Hubert, Johns and Martin did not agree with.
As of Friday, Jan. 7, 33.9% of children age 5 to 11, were vaccinated. To review district protocols, the percentage of fully vaccinated kids of those ages would have to be at least 50%. In students age 12 to 14, 58.2% are vaccinated as of Jan. 7; the percentage would have to reach 70% in order to trigger a review. Lastly, the vaccination rate among 15- to 18-year-old students was 77.2%. The level to reach a districtwide review in this age group is 90%.
Dahman reiterated that only one of the metrics would need to be met in order to be reviewed.
“You went from the possibility of recommending mask choice to now you’re putting metrics on us to now you’re putting metrics on us with the ability to even discuss the issue,” Hubert said. “This is an ongoing issue. You’ve said it multiple times yourself. So why are we limilted the number of times that we can discuss this or the number of opportunities that we have discussed this?”
The meeting was a full house, and 10 residents spoke during public comment.
The majority of speakers talked about being for a mask choice policy and how the current school board has ultimately disappointed them with their leadership.
One speaker spoke about the frustration when one district school, Northside Intermediate, recently shut down and how she had to have her teenage daughter stay home that day to watch her younger sibling and supervise the younger child’s virtual schoolwork.
Another speaker accused Dahman of creating a vaccine mandate and referenced the safety protocol metric that tracks COVID-19 vaccination status.
Only one of the 10 who spoke Monday night voiced support for universal masking and said it is not the time “to remove a crucial layer of our mitigations.”
One speaker, Mike Miller, specifically mentioned Dahman during his remarks. Miller criticized the school board for allowing the superintendent to be the deciding factor in many decisions and criticized his previous work as superintendent in other districts.
School board President Michael Hoffman told Miller during his time that he “was just on the edge of disrespect.”