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Parents concerned over Madison schools, MCSR mask policies

The school district argues it is following guidelines from local public health officials.
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 7:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Kids–and parents–across Dane County have gotten used to wearing masks, but even after the mask mandate was lifted, Madison schools are asking to students to keep wearing them, both indoors and outdoors. The policy applies to school grounds and Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) programs.

Some parents are frustrated by the continued requirements, but the argument from the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is that it is following advice from local public health officials.

Jennifer Hablewitz is one of those parents. Her four kids are part of the Monona Grove School District, but all four participate in MSCR programs.

“Since they’ve been little, we’ve always looked to them for youth programs and camps, basketball camps, development camps, dance camps, gymnastics camps,” Hablewitz described.

MSCR is a department of MMSD, so it follows the district’s COVID-19 policies, including requiring masks indoors and outdoors. This comes after Public Health Madison & Dane County lifted the county-wide mask mandate in early June.

“[My kids] can go to waterparks, no one’s wearing a mask, but they have to still wear one in our public schools,” Hablewitz said.

Hablewitz explained she wants schools to follow the most recent public health guidelines and stop requiring masks for students.

“How do you make friends without being able to see their face, without seeing their facial expressions?” she questioned, adding, “Our schools are continuing to appease those who are the most fearful, it seems like, instead of giving us a choice.”

MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds argued the district is following the advice PHMDC gave them.

“Their guidance to schools was to continue with current, our spring safety mitigations,” LeMonds explained, continuing, “The population who has least been vaccinated are our younger students.”

Hablewitz explains she understood the mask rules when schools started returning to in-person learning, even though she felt kids were at a low risk. Now, however, she feels the continued requirements are unnecessary.

“We had to protect their teachers, their childcare providers, their support system at school, their grandparents, their parents,” she said, continuing, “But now, all those people have had ample time to be vaccinated.”

With vaccination rates in Dane County at nearly 60 percent, Hablewitz said she feels the policy in MMSD and MSCR is “continuing to punish our youth.”

Hablewitz added she is not opposed to parents who choose to keep their own children masked, but she wants the freedom to make her own decision for her family.

“If it’s what’s best for you and your children, please continue to mask them and use your discretion for your children, but do not mandate it for mine,” she said.

Hablewitz and other parents are also concerned about these mask policies continuing throughout the summer and into the next school year.

“We just want a choice. We want a choice now, we want a choice this summer and we want a choice next school year,” Hablewitz said..

However, LeMonds explained the district is still finalizing its plans.

“One of the major considerations is to forego masks for summer school activity,” he said.

LeMonds said MMSD families will receive more information about guidelines for summer school and the fall semester in the next few days.

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