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McFarland, Monona Grove weigh mask requirements as county order nears expiration

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Masks

With Dane County health officials indicating no plans to renew the mask mandate past Nov. 27, representatives from Monona Grove and McFarland school districts say they haven’t yet decided if they will continue to require masks in schools as the county order sunsets.

Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) announced Nov. 1 its most recent mask mandate, which requires face coverings in public for everyone aged two and older, will be in place from Nov. 5 through Nov. 27, but the county “does not plan to replace it with any other mask requirements.”

“This decision comes as a result of decreasing case rates, increasing vaccination rates and the expansion of eligibility for booster doses which will only help strengthen our collective immunity,” said Janel Heinrich, director of PHMDC. “It is no coincidence that transmission is dropping; it reflects the result of intentional, effective public health interventions and another incredible effort by the people of Dane County.”

This order succeeds three others since mid-August, when the county reinstated a mask mandate after removing all public health orders this summer.

McFarland

McFarland Interim Superintendent Wayne Anderson said at a school board meeting this month that the district will likely wait to make a decision on the future of its mask requirement until more students aged five to 11 are able to obtain a full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged five to 11 on Oct. 29.

“When [the school board] meet[s] in December, we can take a look at if a significant portion of our population are… vaccinated and if so, do we want to make different protocols from that point on,” Anderson said to school board members Nov. 1. “I have a whole bunch of hopes inside, but I want to wait to find out what the actual numbers turn out to be.”

Anderson also said district administrators have been talking with Forward Pharmacy about the possibility of the district hosting a weekend vaccine clinic.

Monona Grove

Monona Grove Superintendent Dan Olson said in a statement Friday that student learning continues to be the district’s top consideration as administrators look at the future of mask requirements in school.

“Our priority remains keeping students in school, in person,” Olson said. “There are a number of factors to be considered, including guidance from national, state, and local health agencies.”

The district announced in early August, before the county mask mandate went into effect, that it would require students and staff to be masked at school, regardless of vaccination status.

Olson said the district plans on releasing more information to families this week.

As the mask order nears expiration and Dane County school districts weigh their options on future mask requirements, representatives from PHMDC said the organization “strongly recommends that schools continue to require masks among students, teachers, and staff.”

According to a Nov. 1 release from PHMDC, evidence shows that “masking is an effective tool in school settings.”

The release cited a study that found schools with no mask requirements are over three times more likely to experience a COVID-19 outbreak, when compared to schools that do have mask requirements in place.

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