Eagle River
The Northwoods
St. Germain
Photo by MGN Online

Several local schools make masking optional

Story By Rachael Eyler
Local News Published 04/13/2021 5:47PM, Last Updated 04/13/2021 6:23PM
Oneida Co. - Three school districts in the Northwoods are telling their students, since there's no longer a statewide mask mandate, they don't have to wear one.

"We really need to think hard about whether it's safe to send our kids to school where there's no masking required that could be a recipe for disaster in our communities," Dr. Jeffery Pothof, UW-Health Chief Quality Officer said.

With cases increasing rapidly in the state and a new variant spreading just across state lines, Pothof adds now is not the time to let your guard down.

We have the B-1-1-7 variant which is starting to look like it may be better able to infect young people, including children and spread pretty quickly," Pothof said. Our areas where children start to congregate, i.e: schools, could have their work cut out for them."

Laona, Three Lakes and Crandon School Districts released similar statements regarding face coverings saying the decision did not come lightly getting mixed reactions from parents on social media.

But even with warning from health officials, it's out of their hands

"All of us are tired of our masks, all of us are tired of social distancing but again we don't want to see that big increase in cases," Oneida County Health Director, Linda Conlon said.

In their statement to the public, Crandon School District said part of lifting the requirement comes from the increased vaccination efforts, but officials add, the state isn't quite there yet.

"Lifting a mask mandate based on vaccinations is a possibility but only in conjunction with a very high percentage of people vaccinated in that community, approaching 80 percent," Pothof added.

According to the DHS Vaccine Tracker, about 31 percent of Oneida County is fully vaccinated, Forest County not far behind at 27 percent.

So far Three Lakes is the only Oneida County district dropping the mask requirements, though other school districts have considered joining them.

"As a team we're following the CDC, DHS and Oneida County guidelines and keeping the face coverings mandatory in our schools for the rest of the school year and through summer school," Superintendent of the Rhinelander School District, Eric Burke, said.

Some of those school districts however ask that students wear a face covering when they can't social distance like when they are transitioning in the hallways and on the school bus.

Newswatch 12 did reach out to the school districts for response but they declined to comment.
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