Green Bay School Board discusses masks
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The universal mask mandate within Green Bay schools remains in effect, but the School Board provided more direction Monday, Dec. 13, on when it could end.
“It’s a step toward being mask-optional,” Trustee Andrew Becker said.
Trustees unanimously adopted an updated policy that enacts an automatic trigger for discontining of the district’s current masking policy, which requires all students, staff and visitors to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.
As of Wednesday, Dec. 15, that number is at more than 500 per 100,000.
However, the board is optimistic the number of cases will decrease.
“This whole school year we’ve been above that rolling average of 100, so far,” Board Member Brenda Warren said, “but we have been below that. So, I’m just pointing out that it is possible to get there, because we’ve been there before.”
Superintendent Steve Murley said the administration pushed to have the topic put on the agenda when things looked like they were getting better.
“That would have been in October, and if you are looking at the (rolling average) chart, you could see there was some rapid improvement in that case rate in Brown County,” he said. “So, at that point in time, we pushed to have that added to the agenda, because we were hopefully things were moving in the right direction, and we wanted to be prepared for it. Even though we are struggling a little bit in Brown County in terms of where the rates are at, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at this, so we could can clearly operationally define when we would move in or out of requirements for facial coverings… and have a better idea of what that looks like.”
Murley said if numbers would climb again, the approved motion also allows for reinstating the mandate.
The board also updated its quarantine protocols, which end close-contact quarantines for asymptomatic students, in an effort to keep more students in the classroom.
Vaccinated asymptomatic students who are in contact with a household or non-household COVID-positive individual will not need to quarantine or get tested, just monitor systems.
Unvaccinated asymptomatic students with close contact with a non-household positive individual will not have to quarantine.
If unvaccinated asymptomatic students are in contact with a household positive person, they will still need to quarantine for 20 days, before being allowed to return to school on day 21.
The student can test on day 16, and if negative, may return to school on day 18 or after.
Murley said test results must be shared with the school nurse before returning to school, and at-home tests are not accepted.
All symptomatic students will be required to quarantine, with lengths are dependent on vaccine status.
“I think this motion at least puts some type of a metric when somebody says, “When do masks end?’” Board President Eric Vanden Heuvel said. “In terms of trying things out, not doing the quarantines the same way, we’ll see if that has an impact on things. It sounds like it will be in a positive way with more kids in class and shouldn’t significantly impact our cases.”
Staff attributed the recommended change to low numbers and vaccine access for students aged 5-11.
“At about 2% student positivity for kids, that’s quite low,” District Nurse Kristen Johnson said. “Distancing and masking is helping keep those numbers down.”
The new quarantine policy will not apply for Head Start or 4K students/staff in Green Bay, because those students are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vanden Hevuel said protocols will continue to be monitored.
“The one thing we’ve learned during this entire pandemic is you can make a decision and then three weeks later, maybe it doesn’t apply,” he said. “So, this is a good step for right now, and it’s certainly not the last time we’ll talk about this.”