Face mask opposition surfaces in De Pere schools
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The De Pere school board may soon consider making face masks optional for summer school.
The majority of board members indicated they may be on board with the idea, which will be brought to a vote at the June 8 meeting.
The board’s favorable tone came after about 20 parents and students voiced frustrations over mandated masks in schools.
“I’m sick of you guys pontificating in chairs,” said parent Gerald Radke, who briefly wore a mask during his virtual input to exhibit its effect on communication. “It’s time to put on your big boy pants (and lift the mask mandate). You’ve taken a year away from these kids.”
Dentist Ray Schneider said the board should use common sense and intuition, instead of following “so-called science.”
“The school needs to step up and make the decision that’s best for the kids they represent, not for the medical community, not for the local or state government, not for grandma and grandpa,” he said.
He said COVID-19 basically has a “zero-percent” chance of affecting kids.
Chiropractor Nathan Cummings, who lost a bid for De Pere city council in April, chided the district for adhering to masking and social distancing measures.
“We’ve never closed our doors or required masks, and we’ve even treated people with COVID,” he said of his clinic.
Cummings said a few decades ago, science said cigarettes were good for you.
Susan Frain, also a chiropractor, said masks obstruct breathing and contribute to hypoxia, headaches and joylessness.
Frain listed a roster of negatives she said were the result of masks.
Near the end of the meeting, Board President David Youngquist proposed the board consider making masks optional for summer school.
It was a discussion-only agenda item and wasn’t up for a vote.
The board did vote on a number of other matters, including unanimously to:
• Replace the district’s wireless internet system. The price tag is $155,000, but after a $63,000 rebate, the district’s cost is $93,000. The current wireless system was installed in 2013 and expanded in 2018. Since then, the number of devices connected to the system has risen. Currently, at any one time, around 2,000 devices are connected to the district’s wireless system simultaneously, said Eric Piepenburg, director of technology for the district.
• Approve a $1.25 million contract with CESA 7 for the 2021-22 school year. Jerry Nicholson, director of pupil services, said most of the costs are for salaries of English Language Learners, 4K and special education aides, staff development, school improvement activities and support for the Infinite Campus student information system.
• Approve 26 students for courses through the Early College Credit Program (ECCP) offered by NWTC, UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Concordia and Bellin College. Of the 26, 17 chose a certified nursing assistant program, with 16 at Bellin College and one at NWTC. The others will enroll in classes ranging from developmental psychology and vocational math to carpentry. Under ECCP, costs of courses are shared among the district, the colleges and the state. Students earn high school and college credits.
• Approve the non-resident enrollments of 82 new students in 4K through Grade 12. The district will accept another 32 students who were already enrolled in the district and wish to remain in the district through open enrollment. The district had to deny the applications of 184 students.
The board heard reports from two teachers on outside-the-box classes.
Luke Felchlin, a high school counselor, updated the board on the high school’s Trades Career Academy (TCA) program, a 5-year-old joint venture with the West De Pere school district, Greater Green Bay Chamber, NWTC, and Belmark, Inc.
TCA is an alternative program for students interested in pursuing a trade career.
Students spend 80% of their day on a job site, get paid and receive high school credit.
Training has included manufacturing, electrical, construction, metal fabrication and cabinetry.
“They’re treated just like any other employee,” Felchlin said.
He said they follow the company’s policies, including punctuality, dress code and HR protocols.
“They even work during spring break,” Felchlin said. “It’s not an easy way to get out of going to class.”
Every year, the board awards up to $20,000 in Innovation Grants to teachers for projects that go above and beyond.
Heather Wright was one of nine recipients last year.
Wright’s grant helped launch a new project combining computers and embroidery. Eighth-graders get to create their own designs and write codes for an electronic embroiderer.
“Making their code tactile allows them to see the connection to physical computing,” she said.
The grant helped purchase the embroidery machine.
Editor’s note: To read about De Pere volleyball player Megan Aalsma in this week’s Nicolet National Bank Senior Spotlight, CLICK HERE.