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Monona Grove, McFarland schools react to new guidance on masks

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The masking landscape for the 2021-22 school year continues to fluctuate as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) provide new recommendations related to COVID-19.

CDC representatives released Tuesday, July 27 they are now recommending that all who enter school buildings next school year, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a face mask.

An official statement from the CDC website reads “CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.”

Also on July 27, PHMDC released a similar update to its recommended masking protocol.

“Given the contagiousness of the Delta variant and a recent uptick in cases, we strongly recommend universal masking for all teachers, staff, and students in schools, regardless of vaccination status,” a media release from PHMDC states.

The release cited data that indicates the Delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19, making it easier to spread among unvaccinated individuals. At the time of the July 27 release, the seven day average of new cases of the virus was 31.4, up from 7.6 just one month earlier.

“While the most effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in schools is to get vaccinated, we hope schools use this guidance to operationalize mask wearing for all teachers, students, and staff at schools, regardless of vaccination status, knowing that using these strategies together have a greater impact than any one strategy on its own,” said Janel Heinrich, director of PHMDC.

Following both the CDC and PHMDC updates on K-12 masking recommendations, staff at Monona Grove School District said they’re still working out specifics on mask rules for this fall, but are taking public health guidance into consideration as they do so.

“In addition to considering the recommendations of our local and national health agencies, we are consulting directly with a team of doctors from UW Pediatrics as we develop our plans,” said Katy Byrnes Kaiser, director of communications and community engagement for Monona Grove schools.

The district will release more detailed information on their updated masking policy during the week of Aug. 9, Brynes Kaiser confirmed.

In McFarland, Superintendent Wayne Anderson said the school board will not take an official vote on 2021-22 masking protocol until next week, though his recommendation to the board will be to follow the July 27 guidance from CDC and PHMDC officials.

“What my recommendation will be, is that all students and staff, from early childhood through [grade] 12, will wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status,” Anderson said. “I know that that’s not always preferred by all individuals, but right now, Public Health Madison Dane County and the Centers for Disease Control would say that if we want to have students in person and we want to make it the safest, we should have everyone masked.”

McFarland School Board members will vote on that recommendation on Monday, Aug. 9.

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