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Masking to be optional in Neenah area schools this fall

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT
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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - The Neenah Area School Board approves a plan Tuesday night which would allow for optional masking among students and staff this fall.

The 8-1 vote came after several hours of public comment that was heated at times.

This led the board president to eject people from the virtual meeting, who either weren’t being respectful, or shouted out profanities.

Those who did speak, were almost equally divided.

“The damage from that these restrictions have caused far outweigh the threat from COVID. This has become physically, spiritually, and emotionally an unsafe place at school,” said Roxanne Schwandt-Knutson, one of many parents leading a protest just outside the district headquarters.

Another parent, who only gave his name as Adam said, “I find it really amazing that we are debating wearing something over our mouth to protect kids as even an option, like it should or shouldn’t be.”

Last week, the school board voted against adopting a recommendation from administrators, which would allow for optional masking, but then decided to reconsider, which led to Tuesday’s special meeting.

It was the same day the CDC revised it’s guidelines, recommending masking for all students, even those vaccinated.

RELATED: CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

“I am also a teacher, I teach at the university, and one of the things I worry about is having to figure out who has been vaccinated and who has not and that should not be the focus” said one woman, who spoke out.

At the same time both sides agree, that in person school needs to take place this fall, although some parents are considering private school options, and home schooling.

Another parent responded, “I respect everyone feeling differently when it comes to this topic but I’m tired of being told what I need to do for other people’s children with no regard for the well being and safety of my own.”

At this point the district does not have a virtual option for parents, who oppose this change.

However, the administrators can bring mandatory masking back, should the area, or even a single school have an outbreak.

Recently, Appleton Area Public Schools and St. Mary Catholic Schools said they intend to make wearing masks optional when the new school year begins. Green Bay Area Public Schools decided to make masks optional for grades 7 through 12 but will continue requiring them for young kids through 6th grade since many of them are too young to be eligible for a vaccine.

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