By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – As COVID-19 cases decrease and the number of people being vaccinated increases, the school district is planning to discontinue the requirement to wear a mask when students begin the 2021-22 school year in the fall, said Superintendent Kurt Weyers.
Though districts in the state currently have the discretion as to whether to require wearing masks on school property after the Wisconsin Supreme Court on March 31 struck down the state of emergency declaration by Gov. Tony Evers, Weyers said the mask requirement will continue in Ashwaubenon schools through the end of the 2020-21 school year.
He said, “nothing in the court’s decision or in the resulting invalidation of the governor’s state of emergency declaration has any bearing on local school districts’ authority to implement or maintain current face-covering requirements for in-person instruction.”
Weyers said Ashwaubenon’s policy related to epidemics and pandemics is incorporated in the district’s reopening plan for the current in-person instruction to use masks on school property “as a mitigating strategy for the spread of COVID-19.”
However, he said the district will transition away from requiring masks during summer school.
Weyers said masks will still be required during indoor summer school classes, but they will be optional for classes taking place outdoors.
He said other measures the district has used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as additional sanitation practices, would continue.
Limiting remote learning
Along with plans to drop the mask mandate next fall, Weyers said the district will also limit the availability of remote learning for 2021-22 for the approximately 3,200 4K-12 students who attend Ashwaubenon.
Ashwaubenon previously had partial or total remote instruction this school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but since Jan. 25, around 2,750 students who opted for in-person instruction – about 83 percent of total enrollment – have been back in school five days a week.
Given a further decline in COVID-19 cases and a continued increase in vaccination numbers, Weyers said he would like to have all the students back in-person this fall but would allow a limited number to learn remotely.
He said having students back in-person five days a week is the ideal situation for the best learning outcomes.
Weyers said he hopes summer school will help students who struggled with remote learning catch up after not being as engaged with classes as they were with in-person instruction.
He said the district will be using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funds to hire additional staff for 2021-22 to assist students who need additional help.
A series of those new hires were on the Ashwaubenon school board’s May 12 agenda.