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School Districts Weigh Decisions on Masking

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WAOW Television
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Some school districts in our area are asking students and teachers to wear masks, but many more are making masks optional.

The Tomorrow River School District in Amherst houses around 1,000 students. After a summer semester free from positive COVID cases, administrator Mike Richie said they made the decision to let students decide whether or not to wear a mask this fall.

"We did require masks all last year, and we just saw what it did to our students and we wanted to really try to start the school year back as normal as possible," Richie said.

However, as the Delta variant spreads through the state, pediatrician Dr. Amy Falk said masks should be part of the norm.

"We have seen through many data sets, including my own, including many schools from Central Wisconsin, that school is totally possible in the middle of a pandemic with good mitigation measures that starts with masking," Dr. Falk said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Delta variant is the predominant strain in the Badger State right now, and it's more infectious than other strains of the virus.

For kids who do not meet the age requirements to get a vaccine, the consequences can be devastating.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing children get very, very sick, who may not have comorbidities, as we say, or other illnesses that might make them have more severe consequences," said Dr. Falk.

She said those consequences could be severe in school districts that are choosing to make masking optional.

"I can almost predict with as much certainty as my very foggy crystal ball can can offer is that we are going to see a total mess when the school year starts," Dr. Falk said.

For now, Richie said they're monitoring the situation daily, and if things get worse, masks may not be optional for Amherst students for long.

"Just because the school board voted to make masks optional, that can change at any second. If we start getting more cases, if things get bad, we'll make adjustments as we go throughout the school year," he said.