Monona Grove School District will require mask-wearing inside district schools as the academic year begins Sept. 1.
District officials announced this week that all students, staff and visitors who enter school buildings will need to wear a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19, though individuals will be allowed to remove their mask while eating.
The district’s mask mandate is in effect for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. In addition to school buildings, masks will also be required on school buses.
The news of mandatory masking in Monona Grove schools comes just two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) provided updated guidance on mask wearing for K-12 students as they begin the 2021-22 school year.
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.
PHMDC followed suit later that same day, saying in a media release that they “strongly recommend universal masking for all teachers, staff, and students in schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
The release cited data that indicates the Delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19, making it easier to spread. 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.
At the time district personnel announced mandatory masking on Aug. 9, the seven day average of new COVID-19 cases in Dane County per 100,000 individuals was 115.1, as per data collected from PHMDC.
With a steady rise in new cases, Monona Grove Superintendent Dan Olson said mandatory masking will be imperative in keeping district students safe in school.
“The ultimate goal is having kids in school in person,” Olson said. “If by wearing masks and doing the other protocols will mean keeping kids in school, that’s what we need to do.”
Olson also responded to questions from the district community regarding the legality of mandating masks in schools. He said it’s fully legal.
“We’ve confirmed with our attorneys that it’s really akin to having dress codes, so it’s that simple as far as the expectations,” Olson said. “It’s no different than no shirt, no shoes, no service.”
Monona Grove School Board Member Susan Fox said some district families have also raised concerns on whether or not masks are a successful mitigation strategy in fighting the spread of COVID-19.
She said she believes they are.
“There was an assertion made that masks don’t work, and I think it’s really important that we [say] that yes they do work, and there’s a lot of evidence to that,” said Fox. “Our priority this year is to get kids back in person, full time, everyday and the best way to do that is to have everybody wearing masks, short of having everybody vaccinated.”
This month, Dane County hit a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 71%. At an Aug. 11 school board meeting, Board Member Peter Sobol encouraged the idea of requiring school staff to be vaccinated against the virus no later than when the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Olson said that while the district has looked into the idea of requiring employees to be vaccinated, they are not yet in a place to move forward with it.
“What I can share is that… this is something we need to talk about, but we’re not ready to make a recommendation,” Olson said. “We are gathering data on how we can go about that.”
You can read Monona Grove School District’s full operating plan for the 2021-22 school year on the district website.