A group of parents asked the Milton School Board on Monday night to lift the district’s mask mandate for students, saying the time had come and that the danger of contracting COVID-19 was minimal.
Superintendent Richard Dahman said later in the meeting the district would keep the mask mandate in place through the end of the school year, although no decision had been made about summer school or the fall semester.
The speakers called themselves Milton Parents for Mask Choice. Their Facebook group listed 55 members.
Dan Defore, 4451 Red Oak Trail, said the district does not have the legal authority to require masks.
Defore said requiring masks opens the district to legal liability by mandating “experimental devices with no clinical studies of the long-term effects on children of wearing a mask.”
Defore and others claimed the coronavirus situation in Rock County is not a health crisis.
Dahman said during a break in the meeting that the school district had checked with its legal counsel and state School Board Association and that the district “in general” does have the authority to set up safety protocols, procedures and policies it thinks are appropriate to maintain safety for students and staff.
Defore said the group wants the matter on the school board’s next agenda.
Colleen Lundgren said her son was afraid of being sent to the office for having his mask down and said staff members have threatened children with calling their parents if their masks are placed below their noses.
“There have been reports of children chewing and cutting holes through their masks just so they can breathe,” Lundgren said.
“What is this school board waiting for? Zero cases? That is unrealistic,” parent Tracy Hannah said.
She said anyone who wants to wear a mask still could but that others should be allowed to go without.
“The district has social distancing measures in place. Any person now over the age of 12 who wants a vaccine can get one, and our teachers are long past the waiting period for vaccine effectiveness,” Hannah said.
Hannah said children’s learning development is impeded because they can’t see facial expressions.
“Rock and Dane counties are the only two counties in south-central Wisconsin that still have a mandate, and not shockingly, they are both led by ideologues,” Hannah said.
“This pandemic stopped being about ‘Follow the science’ when it became ‘Follow the politics,’ and our children are the ones who are being punished, dehumanized and programmed that they are a danger to each other and themselves,” Hannah said.
“If this pandemic were as dangerous as people are led to believe, our people would be unified and act as one,” said Jon Beauchaine.
Beauchaine said his daughter on Monday said she didn’t want to go to school because she didn’t want to wear a mask, and he is sure many more feel the same.
No one responded directly to the parents.
Dahman said during his scheduled comment time that as of Friday, four district students were positive for the disease and no staff members were.
Thirty-seven students were out of school Friday for being close contacts with people who had contracted the virus, and 26 were out from close contacts outside of school, Dahman said.
The number of student cases and close contacts was an increase from the previous week, Dahman said.
Dahman on Monday announced one change in its COVID-19 rules, effective immediately: Students and staff who are on quarantine because of close contacts need only do so for 10 days, although they could continue to quarantine for 14 days if they so choose.
Dahman noted the 10-day quarantine aligns with a recent WIAA rule change for student-athletes.
Dahman noted the county health department reported COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased recently and that two hospitals have reported “critical staff shortages.”
Dahman announced Milton High School would hold a vaccination clinic from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 19 for 16- and 17-year-old students who have parental consent.