School District of La Crosse brings back mask requirements; other schools wait for guidance

School District of La Crosse
School District of La Crosse(WEAU)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 10:57 AM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Western Wisconsin schools are considering mask requirements after an increase in COVID-19 cases and recent federal guidance recommending the use of face coverings by everyone indoors at K-12 schools.

The School District of La Crosse announced Tuesday that it would be reinstating mask requirements for grades 4K through 7, while recommending masks for grades 8 through 12. In a post on the school district’s website, Superintendent Aaron Engel writes that the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing in La Crosse County, and to make sure that students would be able to have in-person learning, the district is taking measures to avoid quarantines.

Mask requirements are effective for this week and next week, according to the post, and also includes all staff. Engel advocates for vaccination in the post, writing that it’s the “number-one way” to eliminate mask requirements.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that everyone wear a face covering indoors at K-12 schools. Additionally, masks are recommended indoors in areas with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, La Crosse County had substantial transmission of COVID-19, and La Crosse County Health Department officials recommended vaccination and wearing masks indoors to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is supporting the CDC’s recommendations for mitigation of the spread of COVID-19, stating that vaccination and mask guidance are the best ways for the agency to respond to a growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Wisconsin.

Other school districts in the La Crosse area are not requiring masks at this time. The School District of Onalaska says it “will follow all legally issued orders made by relevant governmental agencies” but is not implementing a mask mandate. The School District of Holmen said Tuesday that masks are optional for all students and staff.

In western Wisconsin, large districts in Eau Claire and Altoona are not implementing mask policies in school buildings either. Eau Claire Area School District’s statement on masks says that they will be optional for all students and staff, but would change if mandates required masks in schools or if there are significant increases in positivity rates in the community, specific school buildings, or grade levels. Altoona’s reopening plan echoes that sentiment, stating that unless local orders mandate them, masks will be optional.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday that he won’t be imposing a statewide mask mandate, claiming that he lacked the authority to do so. University of Wisconsin schools are being required to gain legislative approval to impose COVID-19 requirements, but UW-Madison went ahead and made masks mandatory anyways shortly after the state Legislature announced the requirement.

CDC data dashboards are available on the CDC data tracker website. The DHS also has a COVID-19 data dashboard for Wisconsin on their website.

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