Parents express concerns on COVID-19 protocol in schools

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - Parents enrolled in the Altoona School District expressed concerns they have with the current COVID-19 protocols. The biggest worry was the district’s stance on not requiring making and keeping masks optional.

“This is scary stuff,” Kevin Gilmartin said.

Gilmartin has two teenagers in high school in the Altoona School District. He says it’s “frightening” the way the school district is handling the current COVID situation.

“I really do feel like things have drastically changed with their lack of making requirements this school year,” Gilmartin said. “As a parent, a concerned citizen, and as a pediatrician, I felt like I needed to speak out on this.”

Lacey Donatell also has two kids currently enrolled. She says she’s worried about students not wearing masks.

“It also frustrates me that they will not implement a mask mandate because the health department does not have a mask mandate,” Donatell said.

In a statement provided by Altoona superintendent, Heidi Eliopoulos, she says there’s pressure from both sides on the masking issue.

“Our approach has been to follow the lead of our national, state, and local health officials. Those protocols that are required by our health officials (masking on public transportation and quarantine protocols) are required in our district. Those protocols that are recommended by our health officials (vaccination and universal masking) are managed as recommendations (not requirements) here as well,” Eliopoulos said.

Gilmartin feels the political climate surrounding COVID is influencing the decision on masks in schools.

“Somebody has to push aside the politics and understand that this is about our kids. This isn’t about politics,” Gilmartin said. “Not masking everybody in the schools right now is definitely going to lead to an increase in kids who are sick. It’s going to lead to an increase in kids who are quarantines and it’s going to lead to more time out of school.”

In an email shared with WEAU, the entire 6th grade was out on quarantine starting around September 9th. Students who tested negative could return to school after seven days instead of the full 14 days. According to the district’s COVID dashboard, 460 students total are currently out on quarantine.

Donatell says doesn’t want to have to go back to in-person learning.

“Like most kids, they need that social interaction and that social piece is just as important, if maybe not a little more important,” Donatell said.

Gilmartin hopes the school district changes its mind about the masking policy.

“All I’m asking of my school district is complying with that and not to wait for a requirement that may not ever come given the fact that it’s a political hot potato,” Gilmartin said.

According to the Altoona School District Superintendent, as of Friday, there were 19 new cases of COVID 19 in the schools and as of Monday morning, seven more were added.

Starting Monday, students and staff at the Chippewa Falls School District were required to wear masks indoors. The Eau Claire Area School District has worn masks since the start of the school year.

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