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Areas superintendents discuss school district mask policies

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Despite Friday’s Eau Claire-City County Health Department (ECCHD) announcement recommending people mask up indoors regardless of their vaccination status, two local school districts aren’t yet changing their masking policies.

Altoona School District Superintendent Heidi Eliopoulos said she’s waiting for more clarification from the health department on its new guidance before making a decision.

Eau Claire Area School District Superintendent Michael Johnson said he’s aware of the health department’s new recommendations but is not making any changes at this time.

“We will continue to examine our school and age-level data, along with public health collaboration, as we make decisions regarding our mitigation strategies,” Johnson said.

Both school districts current policies make masks optional for students and staff.

The superintendents spoke Friday morning at the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Eggs and Issues” event before the health ECCHD announcement.

“Parents make a thousand decisions for their children every single day and while sometimes people want us to control every factor and make those decisions for everyone, in this case we’re going to share all the information with parents and ask them to make the choice that’s best for their child,” Eliopoulos said.

“If there were a mandate at the state or national level or local level, that’s what we’d do. And if case numbers at a certain grade level or school or classroom got significantly higher, we’d be able to do the same,” Johnson said.

The health department’s recommendation is not a mandate.

“We chose in the Eau Claire Area School District for masks to be optional in speaking with our administrators, and yes, hearing quite often from our community members, but more importantly, looking at our data and looking at the age groups affected,” Johnson said.

“Our plan is as good as the information we have today,” Eliopoulos said. “For the last 16 months we’ve had to make adjustments based on expected and unexpected changes and we’re going into the school year again with that same readiness, continuing to look at the data regularly.”

Both school districts start in-person classes September 1.

The Eau Claire Area School District has fully virtual options for students, and the School District of Altoona has virtual options for students in grades 6 through 12.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over age two wear a mask in K-12 schools regardless of their vaccination status.

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