Ashwaubenon schools change mitigation strategies
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The School Board agreed to make changes to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies with the approval of vaccination eligibility for children ages 5-11.
Since Sept. 10, district students and staff in grades 4K-6 have been required to wear masks indoors.
However, the board agreed to transition the mask requirement to “highly recommended” for grades 4K-6 six weeks after approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11.
“(Getting vaccinated is) a choice,” Superintendent Kurt Weyers said. “Parents are making that choice…they can choose – either to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine.”
Weyers said he favored requiring masks for 4K-6 students in September because they didn’t have the option to get vaccinated because of their age.
Ashwaubenon School Board Vice President Brian Van De Kreeke said he favored the policy change, because “it is time that we continue to work to move on and get more back to normal.”
Board members decided against another option to make the transition from required masking in grades 4K-6 tied to a drop in Brown County’s burden rate to less than 100 positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.
Van De Kreeke said that provision is “not specific to our school community or our village.”
“It could be years before we get under that 100 level (in Brown County),” he said.
Board member Cassondra Pink said keeping students in school is the No. 1 goal.
If there would be a COVID-19 outbreak at Ashwaubenon in the future, Van De Kreeke said the district could again require masks.
Weyers said the new COVID-19 guidelines also call for individuals in an elementary school classroom to wear masks for two weeks if three or more positive cases are traced to the classroom, and if that level of spreading COVID-19 takes place in three or more classrooms in an elementary school, then the entire school must wear masks for two weeks.
He said if an elementary school classroom has five or more positive cases within 72 hours, the entire classroom could be quarantined.
“We’re trying to not have it all the way across everyone, but again narrowing it down to being just that classroom or… just that building,” Weyers said.
The board also agreed to allow all asymptomatic students and staff in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual at school to remain at school and avoid quarantine.
“We don’t want any kid to miss any days of school,” Weyers said. “I think that was a huge win that we now have kids in school. The only time they will not be in school is if you have a positive case at home or you are positive yourself.”
Ashwaubenon School District previously used a 10-day quarantine for students and staff for close contacts, regardless of where the contact occurred.
Weyers said the change to the quarantine protocols takes effect immediately, so someone quarantined for 10 days because of a close contact at school could return immediately, if that person has no COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
“However, students and staff, who are presently under quarantine restrictions based on a close contact at home – so, if somebody at your home tested positive – they must complete the rest of the current quarantine,” he said.
If the percentage of individuals in a school testing positive for COVID-19 meets or exceeds 2.5%, based on the 10-day rolling average, Weyers said masking will be required there until the 10-day rolling average is below 2.5%.
“We’re saying 2.5 (%) is where we would then look to have some type of masking or some type of quarantine,” he said.
Weyers said Ashwaubenon’s numbers for COVID-19 absences have been running lower than other area districts.
On Nov. 8, 45 student absences were reported on the district’s dashboard related to COVID-19, with nine at the high school, 10 at Parkview Middle School, 14 at Valley View Elementary School, six at Pioneer Elementary School and six at Cormier School & Early Learning.