HUDSON — The Hudson School Board approved new COVID-19 mitigation strategies that will keep masks required until the end of this school year and make them optional starting with summer school.
The move to keep the mask requirement until June 7, after the last day of school and both proms, was approved 6-1, with new Board Member Kate Garza voting no.
In addition to the planned masking change, contact tracing will change immediately. Students who were close contacts with a positive case will not have to quarantine if all involved were wearing masks and the close contacts are not showing symptoms.
The initial recommendation from the administration had masking ending on Friday, June 4. Board Member Heather Logelin said that date raised concerns for her with the two proms being held, as one was before and one was after the end date.
Board Member Carrie Whitacre said she’d want both proms to be under the same rules, with both either requiring masks or not.
Board Member Molly Powers said she was concerned that parents had purchased tickets based on the knowledge that masks were required.
Garza said it was a good compromise to have the requirement end at the end of the school year, but prom was something she couldn’t compromise. If parents felt strongly they could choose not to send kids to prom or have them wear a mask, she said.
“Kids deserve to go to prom and have fun,” Garza said. “I really don’t want to see two proms that are masked,” she said.
By having prom, the district is already being more lenient than many other districts, Logelin said.
Board President Jamie Johnson asked if the district could keep the Friday cutoff date, and shift those who want a prom with masks to the earlier date. Superintendent Nick Ouellette said that would be possible, but then the district could end up with one prom, in either direction, that is much larger when the point of having two proms was to keep the size down.
Ouellette said the district was working to make reasonable and responsible adjustments, but was well aware there would be people on both sides who disagreed with the recommendations.
The views of both those sides were expressed during public comment ahead of the board’s decision.
Those in support of masks asked that they remain a requirement until the end of the school year, or until recommendations change.
Those against the mask requirements said health choices should be left to parents. A few parents stated they would switch kids to different school districts or keep their kids home if masking is required next year.
Two petitions were presented to the board. The one that asks that masks stay in place until either the CDC, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction or state health department change guidelines had 250 signatures, according to the presenter. Another petition calling to unmask students had 523 signatures, according to the presenter.
Those against masking continued to be vocal throughout the meeting, and were repeatedly reminded to stop interrupting board discussion.
Logelin said that though the in-person meeting had a vocal group against masks, the contacts received prior to the meeting were 2 to 1 in support of masks through the end of the year. She also said the pro-mask petition included only Hudson residents, and the anti-mask one included signatures from people out of state.
“I wouldn’t want the vocal nature of this room to make folks think that there’s overwhelming support to remove masks,” she said.