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Deerfield schools continue requiring masks outdoors

Dane County eliminated its outdoor mask requirement in a recent new public health order

  • Updated
  • 2 min to read

Deerfield students will continue to be required to wear masks outdoors during the school day, despite a recent public health decision to end an outdoor mask mandate in Dane County.

In response to a new COVID-19 order from Public Health Madison & Dane County, the Deerfield School Board and district officials shared at an April 12 meeting their current stance on outdoor mask-wearing at school and in sports.

As its new order eliminated an outdoor mask requirement, Public Health Madison & Dane County said earlier this month that masks are still needed indoors. The order also eliminated outdoor gathering limits as long as social distancing is possible.

Superintendent Michelle Jensen said the updated order will not change Deerfield schools practices.

Jensen said Dane County health officials still have concerns about the spread of COVID-19 among school-aged children, most of whom are not yet eligible for vaccines. With the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, Jensen said the school district is going to maintain its course.

That includes continuing to require masks during outdoor recess, Jensen said, because social distancing during recess can sometimes be hard to maintain.

However, administrators are also discussing adding outdoor mask breaks into the day as the weather warms, Jensen said. This might be allowed while walking to and from recess or if classes go outside for lessons, she said.

Jensen said any mask breaks added to the day would be supervised by staff members and require social distancing.

“Whatever we’re going to do is going to be used with a lot of caution and great care,” Jensen said.

Administrators also shared their views on masks related to sporting events for outdoor spring sports, as those seasons begin.

Jensen and Athletic Director Matt Polzin said that during spring sports, athletes will be required to wear masks except while actively competing.

“The good news is there’s a lot more flexibility with masking, because they’re able to be outside,” Polzin said.

Polzin said baseball and softball players will be expected to wear masks in the dugout, but not on the field. Track athletes will have to wear masks while waiting for their heat, but not while running or throwing, Polzin said.

Jensen said they’re still working out what practices might look like, and said more details might come up later.

Deerfield’s plan to require masks all times except during active competition follows Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association recommendations for spring sports, Polzin said, but rules at opposing schools may vary.

Jensen added that responsibility for enforcing mask-wearing will fall to coaches and players themselves, and asks that students take the practice seriously.

“We just cannot have people abuse it,” Polzin said.

Jensen said that Deerfield will be requiring spectators to wear masks at outdoor games when they can’t stay six feet apart. They’re also talking about spreading out bleachers and asking spectators to bring their own chairs.

Jensen and Polzin said they agree that at outdoor sporting events, it may be hard to police mask-wearing among spectators.

The updated Dane County order “pins it all on the school, instead of falling back on a mandate that we don’t have anymore,” Polzin said.

“We’re asking you to be engaged in adult responsibility,” Jensen said.

In other matters, the school board on April 12:

  • Discussed offering staff members a one-time payout for their unused personal days from the 2020-21 school year. Jensen said because of substitute shortages, school staff members have used fewer personal days than previous years. Board members expressed support for rewarding staff members for their limited absences with compensation for personal days not taken.
  • Presented a first draft of the 2021-22 school year calendar, in which students would have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off of school. This is a change from previous years, when students came to school on the holiday and didn’t have classes on the last day of the semester. Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a long-discussed change related to equity in the district.

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