A group of students protested the mask policy at Lake Mills High School Wednesday, May 12 by sitting out of classes. Students say they’ve been bullied by school officials into wearing masks.

Parents in the Lake Mills Area School District asked the school board to put an end to the school’s mandatory mask policy. The item was not on the school board agenda, but the board heard public comment from almost 20 parents, students and community members Monday, May 10 at the board’s regular meeting.

“We’re not saying we’re never going to change the plan as things loosen up, we definitely are looking at phasing into being less restrictive in the school district. There are legal things we have to consider and liability and insurance things we have to consider,” said District Administrator Tonya Olson.

“We do watch all of the stories around the state and we are seeing what they are doing in other parts of the state.”

She said they are continuing to have discussions with the Jefferson County Health Department.

“We are hoping to phase out some of our restrictions,” she said. “We never thought last July we would have to require facemasks. We couldn’t predict what was coming. We are hopeful here in the district.”

She said it’s too early to know what the requirements will be in the fall.

During public comment, Tami Hajcak spoke against the mask mandate at school.

“The vast majority of students have returned to their unmasked lives,” she said. “We are no longer in a pandemic. This is not Spring 2020. There are three vaccines available for anyone who wants one.”

She said the community members voted for the school board members and they should cancel the mask mandate with a special session.

Mary Klein pointed out the mental health issues associated with masks and discussed kids needing fresh air.

“Let our kids breathe the fresh air they need,” she said.

Joy Braund said, “I’ve come to you today as a taxpayer and parent to ask you have an executive session to end the mask mandate.”

She said the masks have caused increased OCD issues with her child.

Her daughter Jade said, “I’m in 5th grade at the middle school,” she said the masks affect her during gym class and cause her anxiety. “My muscles get tense and they don’t get the oxygen they need.”

She also said, “It makes me anxious and I can’t see the smile on people’s face.”

Nicki Gero spoke about numerous quarantines of her healthy children have had to endure this school year.

Laura Taylor said she sent her child back to school during the fourth quarter because she thought the mask mandate would be over since it was voted down by the Supreme Court.

“We believed the mandatory masking was over,” she said. “Mandatory masking of healthy people needs to stop immediately.”

Ian Taylor said he has felt bullied by the school into wearing a mask and because of the discomfort he didn’t play basketball this winter.

“The school has bullied us into wearing masks all year,” he said. “You are failing us.”

Kevin Taylor asked the board to, “make the tough decision for the kids. You are going to get flack either way so make the right decision for the kids. We will have your backs.”

Nadiya Hajcak said wearing a mask at school gives her headaches.

“I struggle greatly with wearing a mask at school all day.”

Adam Sigmund commented that the state doesn’t require masks, “We’re not required to wear them anymore. I don’t see the reason for it anymore,” he said. “Coronavirus affects everyone differently, just as masks affect everyone differently. For my own children this just doesn’t work.”

Nicki Englert said she wouldn’t try to persuade the school board to do anything. She said parents should make the decisions for their children.

“The time is now to take back the authority which is ours…when it comes to your child all that matters is being mom or dad.”

Alisha Lux showed the board the paper mask made with rubber bands and staples her child was given to wear at school when he forgot his mask.

Kevin Georgiles, Lake Mills High School student, discussed his experience wearing a mask during wrestling last winter, “Before a match it’s common courtesy to shake your opponent’s hand.” Due to COVID the opponents didn’t shake hands this year. He said during the course of a match they have direct bodily contact and have to constantly adjust the mask. “I believe when we are constantly adjusting our masks it spreads more germs. We just had constant bodily contact, but we can’t shake hands.”

Nick Roedl discussed his mental health challenges when he was a kid in school and how mask wearing makes mental health struggles more difficult.

“How many students do you think are in our schools and are undiagnosed,” he said. “Let’s address this now, not look at it four weeks from now when school is done.”

Amanda Roedl asked what the district can do instead of masks.

“Our kids learn through emotion. How do you expect our kids learn through emotion with a mask?”

Melanie Fritz of Cambridge has two children in the district.

“I hope you will consider making the mask optional,” she said.

Tzvia Springer explained her background in science and said the science does not support the efficacy of mask wearing.

“When my son returns for instruction in fall 2021, he will not be wearing a mask.”

The board held a special meeting Monday, May 17 and approved the district’s Summer School Mitigation Practices, which made masks optional for some classes and activities.

“The board is scheduling a special meeting to hear from an attorney and the Jefferson County epidemiologist regarding their recommendations regarding possible pandemic plan revisions for the summer. I am not sure if they will take any action on that yet,” she said in an email.

In other business the board:

— Heard about increased enrollment in the early grades.

“We’re really starting to burst at the seams in the 4K, 5K area,” Olson said. “It’s a good problem to have you never want to be on the decreasing enrollment side because that’s where we get our revenue.”

— Heard from Wendy Brockert, business manager, who told the board the Seamless Summer Option food program has been extended through next school year.

“We will be able to provide free meals to all of our students, that’s breakfast and lunch,” she said.

They will also be offering school lunch during the first session of summer school.

— Honored staff members who have been in the district for a number of years.

“Whether they are new teachers, middle of the road or end of the road. We have a fantastic staff here at Lake Mills,” said Cale Vogel, high school principal.

“It’s quite amazing the dedication we have from our staff,” said Robert Dimperio, school board president.

— Honored Lake Mills High School’s Top 10 students.

— Approved teaching contracts for next school year.

— Approved the contract for Nate Grundal, assistant principal and director of summer school changing the length of time.

— Approved the contract for Stephen Considine, assistant principal and director of athletics changing the length of time.

— Approved the Fort HealthCare school nurse contract.

— Approved a paving bid with Poblocki Paving for $32,860.

— Approved a roofing bid for Badgerland Commercial Roofing for $25,990.

— Approved student fees for next school year.

— Approved the CESA #2 contract for next school year for services not provided by the district.

— Approved thousands of dollars in gifts to the district.

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