Updates to the Lake Mills Area School District’s safe return plan had a school board member asking if her colleagues would support removing the mask requirement for children in grades 7-12.

During Monday night’s meeting, board Vice President Amy Litscher asked if the rest of the board would accept an amendment to the changes in the return plan that was before the body so it could approve updates. The document updates were in regard to quarantining practices.

Like she had done two months ago, Litscher proposed amending the district mask requirement, that was put into place the day before the start of the current school year as part of the coronavirus mitigation practices, for grades 7-12 because that cohort “have the option to get vaccinated.”

One person who attended the meeting chose to ‘boo’ the board vice president’s motion as others interrupted the board discussion by declaring masking in the district should be optional for all, not just older students.

The amendment was voted down with board members Dawn Delaney, Brianna Behselich and Ken Eimers voting against the motion.

“I still believe masks make things safer,” Delaney said.

Superintendent Tonya Olson announced her intent to bring updates and a recommendation on masking requirements to the regular November school board meeting.

“We will have some metrics and are working with Jefferson County on that,” she said. “I knew they were coming out this week for that plan so I didn’t want to get ahead of them. I wanted to wait and see how they were using the transmission rate.”

Olson added she does not want Lake Mills to follow what other districts are doing where they are often switching the masking requirements.

“That is too hard on parents and kids and teachers and administration,” the superintendent said. “Looking at news from around the state we’ve also seen a lot of school districts shifting to virtual instruction because of transmissions. We’ve seen a lot of cancellation of athletic events around the state, too.

“We’ve been fortunate… parents have been fantastic at keeping kids home if they are sick and getting them tested,” Olson said. “We want to keep the transmissions in our own schools to a minimum.

As for the update on the district’s safe return plan, Olson pointed out several clarifications were made in regard to quarantine policies, which the board approved 4-1 with Litscher voting noat. The superintendent said the update was based on questions district nurse Toni Zastrow received from families about the COVID-19 quarantine policies and procedures.

“Toni and I went back through and tried to explain the details a little bit more fully,” Olson said.

The updated document states if a child is sent home from school with any of the symptoms listed in the safe return plan, the student will be required to stay home for at least 24-hours. The pupil should not return to school until symptoms subside. If symptoms persist, the district recommends families seek medical advice from a health care provider and/or have the child tested for COVID-19. If the student is tested for COVID-19, they should stay at home and wait for results.

The clarification for close contacts quarantine is if a student is determined to have been in close contact with a peer who tests positive for the virus, the parent will be notified but students will not be sent home to quarantine. Parents are advised to watch their child for symptoms for 2-14 days after being notified. If the student shows COVID-19 symptoms after being exposed, the child should be kept home from school and seek a coronavirus test.

Other board action:

• Approved contracting with School Perceptions for a survey to gauge community support of building an intermediate school for grades 3-5. The district is considering a $36 million school referendum question in the spring.

• Olson provided an update to the district possibly serving as a site for a third-party to conduct COVID-19 tests. She said the proposal with the vendor is to have testing available Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30-5 p.m. The tests would be conducted drive-thru style at the district office building. The superintendent said testing would be limited to staff, students and the immediate family and household members of the students. The tests would be conducted free of charge, but appointments would need to be booked in advance.

• Approved the purchase of a bus for the 2022-23 school year; the vehicle will replace a bus that will be removed from service next year.

• Approved a request from six seniors to graduate early.

• Approved the applications for Start College Now.

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