The Kenosha Unified School Board voted unanimously to end its mask mandate on March 28, with face coverings to become optional for all, including students and staff, at the start of the school year’s fourth quarter.
At a virtual-only meeting Tuesday, the board voted 7-0 to make masking optional, starting March 28, with the understanding that data be collected to poll the district’s parents of their masking preference. The rationale for the transition to mask-optional operations and the behavioral expectations of students, staff and visitors will eventually be communicated districtwide and to the public.
The board also voted unanimously to pare down major COVID-19 restrictions in the district’s “Better Together” plan, but the district administration’s recommendation for revising the plan originally left the mask requirement intact.
Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, School Board member Todd Battle introduced a motion to amend the “Better Together” plan by immediately making masks “highly recommended or optional.”
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Board member Tony Garcia supported Battle’s motion, but their proposal failed 5-2. Voting against the motion were School Board President Yolanda Adams and board members Mary Modder, Todd Price, Atifa Robinson and Rebecca Stevens.
Stevens then proposed the motion that masks become optional, but “highly recommended,” at the beginning of the fourth quarter to enable people to adjust to the change.
“We will continue to monitor the progress and what’s going on in our community to make sure that the plan remains fluid should we need to go back to all masking if the numbers get high again,” Stevens said.
Stevens also said the change would come with expectations of “non-bullying.”
“If you’re wearing masks, not wearing masks, respect everyone’s choice,” she said.
The vote to drop the mask mandate occurred following public comments in which a majority of people spoke in favor of removing the mask requirement. It also came nearly six months after the board approved the mandate at a virtual meeting, held two days after an in-person meeting was abruptly halted when overflow crowds would not socially distance and relocate into an overflow room to watch the proceedings.
Interim KUSD Superintendent Bethany Ormseth said with the latest recommendation under the “Better Together” plan, the district removed the 3% COVID-19 case threshold, which had previously triggered a school to shift to virtual learning. Instead, a school can maintain in-person learning based on having the staff availability to do so.
Visitors will also be allowed in schools again under the latest changes to the plan.
“Any language that spoke to visitors asking that we’d prefer them to wait outside, we’re going to go back to pre-COVID procedures where they have to come in and sign out their child,” Ormseth said.
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